Imaging techniques are a potentially powerful method of identifying phenotypes that are associated with, or are indicative of, a vulnerability to developing major depressive disorder (MDD). Here we identify seven promising MDD-associated traits identified by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or positron emission tomography (PET). We evaluate whether these traits are state-independent, heritable endophenotypes, or state-dependent phenotypes that may be useful markers of treatment efficacy. In MDD, increased activity of the amygdala in response to negative stimuli appears to be a mood-congruent phenomenon, and is likely moderated by the 5-HT transporter gene (SLC6A4) promoter polymorphism (5-HTTLPR). Hippocampal volume loss is characteristic of elderly or chronically-ill samples and may be impacted by the val66met brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene variant and the 5-HTTLPR SLC6A4 polymorphism. White matter pathology is salient in elderly MDD cohorts but is associated with cerebrovascular disease, and is unlikely to be a useful marker of a latent MDD diathesis. Increased blood flow or metabolism of the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC), together with gray matter volume loss in this region, is a well-replicated finding in MDD. An attenuation of the usual pattern of fronto-limbic connectivity, particularly a decreased temporal correlation in amygdala-anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) activity, is another MDD-associated trait. Concerning neuroreceptor PET imaging, decreased 5-HT(1A) binding potential in the raphe, medial temporal lobe, and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) has been strongly associated with MDD, and may be impacted by a functional single nucleotide polymorphism in the promoter region of the 5-HT(1A) gene (HTR1A: -1019 C/G; rs6295). Potentially indicative of inter-study variation in MDD etiology or mood state, both increased and decreased binding potential of the 5-HT transporter has been reported. Challenges facing the field include the problem of phenotypic and etiological heterogeneity, technological limitations, the confounding effects of medication, and non-disease related inter-individual variation in brain morphology and function. Further advances are likely as epigenetic, copy-number variant, gene-gene interaction, and genome-wide association (GWA) approaches are brought to bear on imaging data.