In this study we investigate the influence of a low-pressure discharge on the mechanisms of the image recording on metallic Bi film (i.e. non-Ag photography) in an infrared image converter with a GaAs semiconductor photodetector. A part of the discharge energy is transferred to the electrodes of the system by the bombardment of the electrode surface due to electron-ion flow. This process leads to the sputtering mechanism of the electrode surface material. The analysis showed that the image formed on Bi film during discharge exposure was due to the formation of Bi2O3 on the surface. It is shown, for the first time, that the image recording on Bi film was primarily due to the effectiveness of sputtering and physicochemical interactions in the discharge gap during the transition from the Townsend discharge to the glow discharge type. Scanning electron microscopy analysis of the sputtering pits showed that the density of the sputtered material depends on the energy of the bombarding charged particles. This dependence can be explained by the assumption that effectiveness or sputtered process is proportional to the densities of both the electron and ion current and the stream of sputtered particles leaving the electrode surface.