Reconstruction of the absorption coefficient of tissue with good contrast is of key importance in functional diffuse optical imaging. A hybrid approach using model-based iterative image reconstruction and a genetic algorithm is proposed to enhance the contrast of the reconstructed image. The proposed method yields an observed contrast of 98.4%, mean square error of , and object centroid error of (0.001 to 0.22) mm. Experimental validation of the proposed method has also been provided with tissue-like phantoms which shows a significant improvement in image quality and thus establishes the potential of the method for functional diffuse optical tomography reconstruction with continuous wave setup. A case study of finger joint imaging is illustrated as well to show the prospect of the proposed method in clinical diagnosis. The method can also be applied to the concentration measurement of a region of interest in a turbid medium.