Optoacoustic Imaging is based on the thermal expansion of tissue caused by a temperature rise due to absorption of short laser pulses. At constant laser fluence, optoacoustic image contrast is proportional to differences in optical absorption and the thermoacoustic efficiency, expressed by the Grueuneisen parameter, Γ. Γ is proportional to the thermal expansion coefficient, the sound velocity squared and the inverse heat capacity at constant pressure. In thermal therapies, these parameters may be modified in the treated area. In this work experiments were performed to examine the influence of these parameters on image contrast. A Laser Optoacoustic Imaging System (LOIS, Fairway Medical Technologies, Houston, Texas) was used to image tissue phantoms comprised of cylindrical Polyvinyl Chloride Plastisol (PVCP) optical absorbing targets imbedded in either gelatin or PVCP as the background medium. Varying concentrations of Black Plastic Color (BPC) and titanium dioxide (<i>TiO<sub>2</sub></i>) were added to targets and background to yield desired tissue relevant optical absorption and effective scattering coefficients, respectively. In thermal therapy experiments, ex-vivo bovine liver was heated with laser fibres (805nm laser at 5 W for 600s) to create regions of tissue coagulation. Lesions formed in the liver tissue were visible using the LOIS system with reasonable correspondence to the actual region of tissue coagulation. In the phantom experiments, contrast could be seen with low optical absorbing targets (<i>μ<sub>a</sub></i> of 0.50<i>cm<sup>-1</sup></i> down to 0.13<i>cm</i>-1) embedded in a gelatin background (see manuscript for formula). Therefore, the data suggest that small objects (< 5<i>mm</i>) with low absorption coefficients (in the range < 1<i>cm</i><sup>-1</sup>) can be imaged using LOIS. PVCP-targets in gelatin were visible, even with the same optical properties as the gelatin, but different Γ. The enhanced contrast may also be caused by differences in the mechanical properties between the target and the surrounding medium. PVCP-targets imbedded in PVCP produced poorer image contrast than PVCP-targets in gelatin with comparable optical properties. The preliminary investigation in tissue equivalent phantoms indicates that in addition to tissue optical properties, differences in mechanical properties between heated and unheated tissues may be responsible for image contrast. Furthermore, thermal lesions in liver tissue, ex-vivo, can be visualized using an optoacoustic system.