We decompose the light field in the focal plane of an imaging system into a set of optical eigenmodes. Subsequently, the superposition of these eigenmodes is identified, that optimizes certain aspects of the imaging process. In practice, the optical eigenmodes modes are implemented using a liquid crystal spatial light modulator. The optical eigenmodes of a system can be determined fully experimentally, taking aberrations into account. Alternatively, theoretically determined modes can be encoded on an aberration corrected spatial light modulator. Both methods are shown to be feasible for applications. To achieve subdiffractive light focussing, optical eigenmodes are superimposed to minimize the width of the focal spot within a small region of interest. In conjunction with a confocal-like detection process, these spots can be utilized for laser scanning imaging. With optical eigenmode engineered spots we demonstrate enhanced two-point resolution compared to the diffraction limited focus and a Bessel beam. Furthermore, using a first order ghost imaging technique, optical eigenmodes can be used for phase sensitive indirect imaging. Numerically we show the phase sensitivity by projecting optical eigenmodes onto a Laguerre-Gaussian target with a unit vortex charge. Experimentally the method is verified by indirect imaging of a transmissive sample.