Optical measurements of tissue can be performed in discrete, time–averaged, and time–varying data collection modes. This information can be evaluated to yield estimates of either absolute optical coefficient values or some relative change in these values compared to a defined state. In the case of time–varying data, additional analysis can be applied to define various dynamic features. For this report we have explored the accuracy with which such information can be recovered from dense scattering media using linear perturbation theory, as a function of the accuracy of the reference medium that serves as the initial guess. Within the framework of diffusion theory and a first–order solution, we have observed the following inequality regarding the sensitivity of computed measures on the accuracy of the reference medium: Absolute measures >> relative measures > dynamic measures. In fact, the fidelity of derived dynamic measures was striking; we observed that accurate measures of dynamic behavior could be defined even if the quality of the image data from which these measures were derived was comparatively modest. In other studies we identified inaccuracy in the estimates of the reference detector values, and not to corresponding errors in the image operators, as the primary factor responsible for instability of absolute measures. The significance of these findings for practical imaging studies of tissue is discussed.