Recent advances in measurement techniques, including digital image correlation, automated photoelasticity, electronic speckle pattern interferometry and thermoelastic stress analysis, permit full-field maps of displacement or strain to be obtained easily. They provide large volumes of mostly redundant data, which should be condensed to the essential information to permit straightforward processes such as validations of computational models or damage assessments. A way to do this is by image processing, an important aspect of which is the definition of an orthogonal basis (orthogonal kernel functions). Generally, this is problem dependent and requires some skill from the analyst if the number of image features (the coefficients of the orthogonal basis) is to be restricted to a suitably small number. Advantage may be taken of patterns of symmetry, for example cyclically symmetric patterns are well-suited to treatment by Zernike polynomials and rectangular patterns are well-suited to treatment by Fourier series. The Zernike and Fourier kernels are continuous polynomials with orthogonality properties that require integration and must be discretised. The discrete Tchebichef polynomials are ideal for the treatment of full-field information at multiple discrete data points. In many cases the data field is localised around a particular feature, such as local strain around a hole in a tension-test specimen. In this case, the polynomial basis should similarly be localised by various forms of scaling – this requires the application of the Gram-Schmidt procedure to maintain orthogonality. The image features (sometimes called shape features) are meaningful and may be used to identify particular patterns in the data – e.g. for detecting cracks or other forms of damage. When assembled in a feature vector, the distance between feature vectors from measured and numerical results are useful for refining numerical models. In this paper the principles of image analysis, as applied to full-field displacement/strain data are explained and experimental examples are used to illustrate the practical usefulness of the method. The applications include (i) vibration mode shapes of laminated honeycomb structures and, (ii) strain in an aluminium plate with a central hole in tension.