Since their development, shape memory polymers (SMPs) have been of increasing interest in active materials and structures design. In particular, there has been a growing interest in SMPs for use in adaptive structures because of their ability to switch between low and high stiffness moduli in a relatively short temperature range. However, because a thermal stimulus is inappropriate for many morphing applications, a new light activated shape memory polymer (LASMP) is under development. Among the challenges associated with the development of a new class of material is establishing viable characterization methods. For the case of LASMP both the sample response to light stimulus and the stimulus itself vary in both space and time. Typical laser light is both periodic and Gaussian in nature. Furthermore, LASMP response to the light stimulus is dependent on the intensity of the incident light and the time varying through the thickness penetration of the light as the transition progresses. Therefore both in-plane and through-thickness stimulation of the LASMP are nonuniform and time dependent. Thus, the development of a standardized method that accommodates spatial and temporal variations associated with mechanical property transition under a light stimulus is required. First generation thick film formulations are found to have a transition time on the order of 60 min. The characterization method proposed addresses optical stimulus irregularities. A chemical kinetic model is also presented capable of predicting the through-thickness evolution of Young’s modulus of the polymer. This work discusses in situ characterization strategies currently being implemented as well as the current and projected performance of LASMPs.