Despite their modest spatial resolution, uncoated tapered fiber probes are now widely used by the nanooptics community for mapping, with scanning near-field optical microscopy (SNOM), the nonradiative fields at the surface of optical and plasmonic microstructures and nanostructures. Given the significant complexity of the vectorial optical phenomena associated with subwavelength structures, the correct interpretation of SNOM acquisitions requires a complete and accurate understanding of the intrinsic image-formation procedure. In this theoretical study, we show that the SNOM imaging process with uncoated tapered fiber probes is highly polarization dependent and that the dominant effect is, surprisingly, the choice of optical fiber from which the tapered probe was fabricated. We demonstrate that although a tapered monomode fiber is unable to collect the component of the vector electric field parallel to the tip axis, a tapered multimode fiber can successfully collect all the three field components. However, we show that the signal from the longitudinal field component is collected only 10% as efficiently as the signal from the two transverse field components © 2010 Optical Society of America.