Using a novel setup, we assessed how fast growth of Nicotiana tabacum seedlings responds to alterations in the light regime and investigated whether starch-free mutants of Arabidopsis thaliana show decreased growth potential at an early developmental stage. Leaf area and relative growth rate were measured based on pictures from a camera automatically placed above an array of 120 seedlings. Detection of total seedling leaf area was performed via global segmentation of colour images for preset thresholds of the parameters hue, saturation and value. Dynamic acclimation of relative growth rate towards altered light conditions occurred within 1 d in N. tabacum exposed to high nutrient availability, but not in plants exposed to low nutrient availability. Increased leaf area was correlated with an increase in shoot fresh and dry weight as well as root growth in N. tabacum. Relative growth rate was shown to be a more appropriate parameter than leaf area for detection of dynamic growth acclimation. Clear differences in leaf growth activity were also observed for A. thaliana. As growth responses are generally most flexible in early developmental stages, the procedure described here is an important step towards standardized protocols for rapid detection of the effects of changes in internal (genetic) and external (environmental) parameters regulating plant growth.