An improved laser etching apparatus for forming a photographic image on a metallic or non-metallic surface is described. The apparatus comprises a variable rate, 'Q' switched laser, whose beam is focused on one element of a blank at a time. The laser is controlled by means of an apertured photodetector which senses the brightness of an element on a photographic transparency and produces an electrical signal corresponding to the brightness of that element. The electrical signal controls the rate at which the laser produces pulses. The blank is scanned in respect to the etching laser beam simultaneously with the transparency being scanned in respect to the apertured photodetector. The picture produced on the blank contains an assemblage of laser etched craters. In dark regions of the picture, the craters occur in greater densities while in light regions of the picture, the craters occur in lesser densities. The overall appearance of the laser etched image is that of a half-tone print reproducing the transparency.