Accounting for radiative transfer within the atmosphere is usually necessary to accomplish target detection in airborne/satellite hyperspectral images. In this paper, two methods of accounting for the illumination and atmospheric effects-atmospheric compensation (AC) and forward modeling (FM)-are investigated in their application to target detection. Specifically, several crucial aspects are examined, such as the processing required, the computational complexity, and the flexibility accorded to an imperfect knowledge of acquisition conditions. Real ground-truthed hyperspectral data are employed in order to evaluate the operational applicability of such approaches in a target-detection scenario, as well as their impact on the processing-chain computational complexity. Results indicate that AC is recommended when accurate knowledge of the acquisition conditions is available, and the image has relatively uniform illumination and nonshadowed targets. Conversely, FM is preferred if scene conditions are not well known and when the targets may be subject to varying illumination conditions, including shadowing.