We introduce a new class of image features, the Ray feature set, that consider image characteristics at distant contour points, capturing information which is difficult to represent with standard feature sets. This property allows Ray features to efficiently and robustly recognize deformable or irregular shapes, such as cells in microscopic imagery. Experiments show Ray features clearly outperform other powerful features including Haar-like features and Histograms of Oriented Gradients when applied to detecting irregularly shaped neuron nuclei and mitochondria. Ray features can also provide important complementary information to Haar features for other tasks such as face detection, reducing the number of weak learners and computational cost.