Image decomposition is used to address the problem of accurately and concisely describing the strain in an inhomogeneous composite panel that is bolted to a vehicle structure. In-service, the composite panel is subject to structural loads from the vehicle which can cause unintended damage to the panel. Finite element simulations have been performed with the plan to establish their fidelity using full-field optical strain measurements obtained using digital image correlation. A methodology is presented based on using orthogonal shape descriptors to decompose the data-rich maps of strain into information-preserved data sets of reduced dimensionality that facilitate a quantitative comparison of the computational and experimental results. The decomposition is achieved employing the Fourier transform followed by fitting Tchebichef moments to the maps of the magnitude of the Fourier transform. The results show that this approach is fast and reliably describes the strain fields using less than fifty moments as compared to the thousands of data points in each strain map.