By co-expression of heme oxygenase and various bilin reductase(s) in a single operon in conjunction with apophytochrome using two compatible plasmids, we developed a system to produce phytochromes with various chromophores in Escherichia coli. Through the selection of different bilin reductases, apophytochromes were assembled with phytochromobilin, phycocyanobilin, and phycoerythrobilin. The blue-shifted difference spectra of truncated phytochromes were observed with a phycocyanobilin chromophore compared to a phytochromobilin chromophore. When the phycoerythrobilin biosynthetic enzymes were co-expressed, E. coli cells accumulated orange-fluorescent phytochrome. The metabolic engineering of bacteria for the production of various bilins for assembly into phytochromes will facilitate the molecular analysis of photoreceptors.