Abstract Imaging of spatial variability of electrode processes using signals stimulated by a focused light spot is described. The signals include photovoltage and photocurrent, photoacoustic and photothermal effects, as well as the reflected light intensity. The theory of contrast in the photocurrent image is presented: methods utilizing intensity modulated light are compared with those in which the spot is scanned rapidly without intensity modulation. Effects of variation of intensity modulation frequency and spot scan speed are calculated; blurring, streaking and shadowing effects are explained. For systems which are not photoactive, the feasibility of an imaging procedure based upon the small thermal effect induced by the focused spot on the current for an electrode process is assessed. Methods of imaging utilizing potential variations at constant (usually zero) current are compared with those involving the measurement of current variations at constant potential.