A fast, low-cost method for rice canopy leaf area index (LAI) estimation is proposed. Take photos of rice canopy with a 57° view angle from above using a common digital camera. Extract canopy gap fraction by digital image processing technology. Then LAI can be estimated using canopy gap fraction based on optical transmission model and Leaf angle distribution model. AccuPAR-LP80 and direct measurement were employed to provide Comparative data. Comparison of the three methods, we obtained high correlation coefficients (R²≥0.6). The result shows that the method is especially suitable for estimating LAI in early growth stage of rice.