First order magnetocaloric materials reach high entropy changes but at the same time exhibit hysteresis losses which depend on the sample’s microstructure. We use non-destructive 3D X-ray microtomography to understand the role of surface morphology for the magnetovolume transition of LaFe11.8Si1.2. The technique provides unique information on the spatial distribution of the volume change at the transition and its relationship with the surface morphology. Complementary Hall probe imaging confirms that on a morphologically complex surface minimization of strain energy dominates. Our findings sketch the way for a tailored surface morphology with low hysteresis without changing the underlying phase transition.