We describe two new methods of fluorescence sensing for use in high throughput screening (HTS). Modulation sensing transforms analyte-dependent intensity changes into a change in the low-frequency modulation signal. Polarization sensing transforms an intensity change into a change in polarization. Both methods are internally calibrated by using a reference film immediately adjacent to the sample, which can be readily located on the HTS plate or on a nearby optical component and provides an intensity or polarization reference. Modulation sensing and polarization sensing were both shown useful for measurements of fluorophore concentrations, pH, or calcium concentrations in the wells of HTS plates. Sensing with a reference film provides the opportunity to internally reference HTS measurements without the need for additions to the sample. This approach can provide standardization for assays performed at different times.