A surface crack close to a spot heated by a laser beam impedes lateral heat flow and produces alterations to the shape of the thermal image of the spot that can be monitored by thermography. A full 3D simulation has been developed to simulate heat flow from a laser heated spot in the proximity of a crack. The modelling provided an understanding of the ways that different parameters affect the thermal images of laser heated spots. It also assisted in the development of an efficient image processing strategy for extracting the scanned cracks. Experimental results show that scanning pulsed laser spot thermography has considerable potential as a remote, non-contact crack imaging technique.