Assessing the effects of substituents on the spectra of chlorophylls is essential for gaining a deep understanding of photosynthetic processes. Chlorophyll a and b differ solely in the nature of the 7-substituent (methyl versus formyl), whereas chlorophyll a and d differ solely in the 3-substituent (vinyl versus formyl), yet have distinct long-wavelength absorption maxima: 665 (a) 646 (b) and 692 nm (d). Herein, the spectra, singlet excited-state decay characteristics, and results from DFT calculations are examined for synthetic chlorins and 131-oxophorbines that contain ethynyl, acetyl, formyl and other groups at the 3-, 7- and/or 13-positions. Substituent effects on the absorption spectra are well accounted for using Gouterman’s four-orbital model. Key findings are that (1) the dramatic difference in auxochromic effects of a given substituent at the 7- versus3- or 13-positions primarily derives from relative effects on the LUMO+1 and LUMO; (2) formyl at the 7- or 8-position effectively “porphyrinizes” the chlorin and (3) the substituent effect increases in the order of vinyl < ethynyl < acetyl < formyl. Thus, the spectral properties are governed by an intricate interplay of electronic effects of substituents at particular sites on the four frontier MOs of the chlorin macrocycle.