Diffuse reflectance spectroscopy is a rapidly growing technology in the biophotonics community where it has shown promise in its ability to classify different tissues. In the steady-state domain a wide spectrum of clinical applications is supported with this technology ranging from diagnostic to guided interventions. Diffuse reflectance spectra provide a wealth of information about tissue composition; however, extracting biologically relevant information from the spectra in terms of chromophores may be more useful to gain acceptance into the clinical community. The chromophores that absorb light in the visible and near infrared wavelengths can provide information about tissue composition. The key characteristics of these chromophores and their relevance in different organs and clinical applications is the focus of this review, along with translating their use to the clinic.