This paper presents feature-based alignment (FBA), a general method for efficient and robust model-to-image alignment. Volumetric images, e.g. CT scans of the human body, are modeled probabilistically as a collage of 3D scale-invariant image features within a normalized reference space. Features are incorporated as a latent random variable and marginalized out in computing a maximum a posteriori alignment solution. The model is learned from features extracted in pre-aligned training images, then fit to features extracted from a new image to identify a globally optimal locally linear alignment solution. Novel techniques are presented for determining local feature orientation and efficiently encoding feature intensity in 3D. Experiments involving difficult magnetic resonance (MR) images of the human brain demonstrate FBA achieves alignment accuracy similar to widely-used registration methods, while requiring a fraction of the memory and computation resources and offering a more robust, globally optimal solution. Experiments on CT human body scans demonstrate FBA as an effective system for automatic human body alignment where other alignment methods break down.