The scaling of metabolic rate with the size of algae has been discussed and researched at length. The observation that algae usually have exponents b in the equation R = a·W−b (where R is the specific growth rate, W is the organism [cell] biomass, and a and b are constants) equal to or higher than the value of −0.25 for many other organisms is generally related to resource-saturated (maximal) values of R. Recent work has shown that the exponent b for light-limited growth is more negative than −0.25. This was predicted from considerations of the package effect in photon absorption, as modulated by the volume-specific pigment content of the cells, and the photosynthetic unit size. Further work is needed to extrapolate these findings to fluctuating light environments. This minireview puts the recent work into a broader context and suggests how further work could quantify the roles of optical thickness and of spatial and temporal variations in the radiation field in determining metabolic rates.