We present the discovery of 49 new photometrically classified T dwarfs from the combination of large infrared and optical surveys combined with follow-up TNG photometry. We used multi-band infrared and optical photometry from the UKIRT and Sloan Digital Sky Surveys to identify possible brown dwarf candidates, which were then confirmed using methane filter photometry. We have defined a new photometric conversion between CH4s - CH4l colour and spectral type for T4 to T8 brown dwarfs based on a part of the sample that has been followed up using methane photometry and spectroscopy. Using methane differential photometry as a proxy for spectral type for T dwarfs has proved to be a very efficient technique. Of a subset of 45 methane selected brown dwarfs that were observed spectroscopically, 100% were confirmed as T dwarfs. Future deep imaging surveys will produce large samples of faint brown dwarf candidates, for which spectroscopy will not be feasible. When broad wavelength coverage is unavailable, methane imaging offers a means to efficiently classify candidates from such surveys using just a pair of near-infrared images.