The physical properties of NEOs and other asteroids are mostly obtained with photometry. The resulting models describe the shapes, spin states, scattering properties and surface structure of the targets, and are the solutions of inverse problems involving comprehensive mathematical analysis. We review what can and cannot be obtained from photometric (and complementary) data, and how all this is done in practice. The role of photometry will become completely dominating with the advent of large-scale surveys capable of producing calibrated brightness data. Due to their quickly changing geometries with respect to the Earth, NEOs are the population that can be mapped the fastest.