Feature fusion is a commonly used strategy in image retrieval tasks, which aggregates the matching responses of multiple visual features. Feasible sets of features can be either descriptors (SIFT, HSV) for an entire image or the same descriptor for different local parts (face, body). Ideally, the to-be-fused heterogeneous features are pre-assumed to be discriminative and complementary to each other. However, the effectiveness of different features varies dramatically according to different queries. That is to say, for some queries, a feature may be neither discriminative nor complementary to existing ones, while for other queries, the feature suffices. As a result, it is important to estimate the effectiveness of features in a query-adaptive manner. To this end, this article proposes a new late fusion scheme at the score level. We base our method on the observation that the sorted score curves contain patterns that describe their effectiveness. For example, an "L"-shaped curve indicates that the feature is discriminative while a gradually descending curve suggests a bad feature. As such, this paper introduces a query-adaptive late fusion pipeline. In the hand-crafted version, it can be an unsupervised approach to tasks like particular object retrieval. In the learning version, it can also be applied to supervised tasks like person recognition and pedestrian retrieval, based on a trainable neural module. Extensive experiments are conducted on two object retrieval datasets and one person recognition dataset. We show that our method is able to highlight the good features and suppress the bad ones, is resilient to distractor features, and achieves very competitive retrieval accuracy compared with the state of the art. In an additional person re-identification dataset, the application scope and limitation of the proposed method are studied.