Magnetic force microscopy (MFM) in the presence of an external magnetic field has been developed. This has led to further understanding of image formation in MFM as well as new insights concerning the interaction of magnetic recording media with an external field. Our results confirm that, at low applied fields, image formation results from the interaction of the component by the local surface field along the direction of the probe's magnetization. By reorienting the probe's magnetization by an appropriate application of an external field, it is possible to selectively image specific components of the local field. At higher applied fields, the probe becomes saturated and the changes in the images may be attributed to magnetization reversal of the sample. We have observed the transformations that occur at various stages of the dc erasure of thin-film recording media. This technique has also been applied to conventional magneto-optical media to study domain collapse caused by increasing temperature with an external bias field. The methods, results, and their analysis are presented.