Histopathology evaluation and lymphadenectomy of node-positive patients is the usual procedure in clinical therapy. However, it requires days for the histopathology result analysis, which impedes intraoperative decision-making and immediate treatment. Noninvasive real-time imaging of metastatic lymph nodes can overcome these defects and help medical workers evaluate lymph nodes and make the operation decision more efficiently. Herein we developed iridium(III)-cyanine complex/bovine serum albumin (BSA)-based nanoparticles which are conjugated with folic acid (FA) (IrCy-FA NPs). The synthesized IrCy-FA NPs exhibit good biocompatibility, strong near-infrared absorption, and impressive lymph node accumulation and can serve as a photoacoustic (PA) imaging probe for lymph node imaging. Besides, the lymph nodes enriched with IrCy-FA NPs showing green color are easily visible to the naked eye, suggesting their potential as an intraoperative indicator. The real-time PA imaging with excellent contrast and high spatial resolution can promote efficient and reliable quantitative analysis of lymph nodes in vivo. By employing IrCy-FA NPs as the PA agent for lymph node imaging, we achieve effective pre-operative and post-operative evaluations of metastatic lymph nodes in lymphadenectomy. This study may provide helpful information for PA imaging guided colocalization and evaluation of lymph nodes and facilitate this method towards clinical trials.