The combination of internal photoemission and near-field optics is proposed as a generally applicable approach to study the lateral variations of solid interface properties such as energy barriers and electron-hole recombination rates. A successful test on Pt-GaP is described in which topographic and nontopographic phenomena are revealed, in particular recombination rate variations and small lateral changes of the Schottky barrier height. (C) 1996 American Institute of Physics.