Abstract The calculation of radial and depth profile of temperature rise in a laser-irradiated film of low thermal conductivity such as some chalcogenides and oxides is carried out in a simple manner using the method of separable variables. The proposed expression for the temperature rise is easy to compute and quite general in nature. The absorbance and thermal conductivity (assumed to be independent of temperature) are taken as material characterizing parameters. The result manifests many features and situations encountered in photothermal recording experiments. The proposed expression is quite handy and helpful in selecting the proper laser and its optimal use in photothermal recording.