Singlet molecular oxygen, O2(a1?g), can be efficiently produced in a photosensitized process using either one- or two-photon irradiation. The aromatic ketone 1-phenalenone (PN) is an established one-photon singlet oxygen sensitizer with many desirable attributes for use as a standard. In the present work, photophysical properties of two other aromatic ketones, pyrene-l,6-dione (PD) and benzo[cd]pyren-5-one (BP), are reported and compared to those of PN. Both PD and BP sensitize the production of singlet oxygen with near unit quantum efficiency in a nonpolar (toluene) and a polar (acetonitrile) solvent. With their more extensive . networks, the one-photon absorption spectra for PD and BP extend out to longer wavelengths than that for PN, thus providing increased flexibility for sensitizer excitation over the range ~300-520 nm. Moreover, PD and BP have much larger two-photon absorption cross sections than PN over the range 655-840 nm which, in turn, results in amounts of singlet oxygen that are readily detected in optical experiments. One- and two-photon absorption spectra of PD and BP obtained using high-level calculations model the salient features of the experimental data well. In particular, the ramifications of molecular symmetry are clearly reflected in both the experimental and calculated spectra. The use of PD and BP as standards for both the one- and two-photon photosensitized production of singlet oxygen is expected to facilitate the development of new sensitizers for application in singlet-oxygen-based imaging experiments. © 2007 American Chemical Society.