Due to their metabolic flexibility and fast growth rate, microscopic aquatic phototrophs like algae have a potential to become industrial photochemical converters. Algae photosynthesis could enable the large scale production of clean and renewable liquid fuels and chemicals with major environmental, economic and societal benefits. Capital and operational costs are the main issues to address through optical, process and biochemical engineering improvements. In this perspective, a variety of photonic approaches have been proposed - we introduce them here and describe their potential, limitations and compatibility with separate biotechnology and engineering progresses. We show that only sunlight-based approaches are economically realistic. One of photonics' main goals in the algae field is to dilute light to overcome photosaturation effects that impact upon cultures exposed to full sunlight. Among other approaches, we introduce a widely-compatible broadband spectral adaptation technique called AlgoSun® that uses luminescence to optimize sunlight spectrum in view of the bioconverter's requirements.