The establishment of non-Hermitian quantum mechanics (such as parity-time (PT) symmetry) stimulates a paradigmatic shift for studying symmetries of complex potentials. Owing to the convenient manipulation of optical gain and loss in analogy to the complex quantum potentials, photonics provides an ideal platform for visualization of many conceptually striking predictions from the non-Hermitian quantum theory. A rapidly developing field has emerged, namely, PT symmetric photonics, demonstrating intriguing optical phenomena including eigenstate coalescence and spontaneous PT symmetry breaking. The advance of quantum physics, as the feedback, provides photonics with brand-new paradigms to explore the entire complex permittivity plane for novel optical functionalities. Here, we review recent exciting breakthroughs in PT symmetric photonics while systematically presenting their underlying principles guided by non-Hermitian symmetries. The potential device applications for optical communication and computing, bio-chemical sensing, and healthcare are also discussed.