Surface plasmon-, phonon- and exciton-polaritons exist on specific materials in specific spectral regions. We assess the properties of such travelling surface-bound electromagnetic waves relevant for scanning near-field optical microscopy applications, i.e. the tightness of surface binding, the attenuation, the phase velocity and the coupling with free-space electromagnetic waves. These quantities can be directly determined by photographic imaging of surface plasmon- and surface phonon-polaritons, in both the visible and mid-infared regions. Focusing of mid-infrared surface plasmons is demonstrated. Surface waveguides to transport and focus photons to the tip of a scanning near-field probe are outlined.