A method is presented to construct object-related structure observables, such as size, mass, shape, and trajectories from two-dimensional plasma imaging data. The probability distributions of these observables, deduced from measurements of many realizations, provide a robust framework in which the fluctuations, the turbulence, and the related transport are characterized. The results for imaging data recorded in the presence of drift-interchange instabilities and turbulence on the TORPEX toroidal plasma experiment [A. Fasoli , Phys. Plasmas 13, 055902 (2006)] are discussed. (c) 2006 American Institute of Physics.