Different ambient sensors differs on their ability to sense specific wavelength and introduce different ambient levels compared to human eye, here’s a general application note from OSRAM. Link here (PDF) This application note introduces discusses ambient light sensing. The different types of ambient light sensors are described and related to specific applications.
Craig writes, “I recently designed an infrared sensor board (dubbed “IRis”) for my friend’s Defcon talk. This video walks through the circuit design of the photodiode amplifier, and discusses some of the pitfalls associated with photodiode amplifier design.” More details at Analog Zoo homepage. All project files are available on github.