Training a classifier

This is it. You have seen how to define neural networks, compute loss and make updates to the weights of the network.

Now you might be thinking,

What about data?

Generally, when you have to deal with image, text, audio or video data, you can use standard python packages that load data into a numpy array. Then you can convert this array into a torch.*Tensor.

  • For images, packages such as Pillow, OpenCV are useful.
  • For audio, packages such as scipy and librosa
  • For text, either raw Python or Cython based loading, or NLTK and SpaCy are useful.

Specifically for vision, we have created a package called torchvision, that has data loaders for common datasets such as Imagenet, CIFAR10, MNIST, etc. and data transformers for images, viz., torchvision.datasets and

This provides a huge convenience and avoids writing boilerplate code.

For this tutorial, we will use the CIFAR10 dataset. It has the classes: ‘airplane’, ‘automobile’, ‘bird’, ‘cat’, ‘deer’, ‘dog’, ‘frog’, ‘horse’, ‘ship’, ‘truck’. The images in CIFAR-10 are of size 3x32x32, i.e. 3-channel color images of 32x32 pixels in size.



Training an image classifier

We will do the following steps in order:

  1. Load and normalizing the CIFAR10 training and test datasets using torchvision
  2. Define a Convolution Neural Network
  3. Define a loss function
  4. Train the network on the training data
  5. Test the network on the test data

1. Loading and normalizing CIFAR10

Using torchvision, it’s extremely easy to load CIFAR10.

import torch
import torchvision
import torchvision.transforms as transforms

The output of torchvision datasets are PILImage images of range [0, 1]. We transform them to Tensors of normalized range [-1, 1]

transform = transforms.Compose(
     transforms.Normalize((0.5, 0.5, 0.5), (0.5, 0.5, 0.5))])

trainset = torchvision.datasets.CIFAR10(root='./data', train=True,
                                        download=True, transform=transform)
trainloader =, batch_size=4,
                                          shuffle=True, num_workers=2)

testset = torchvision.datasets.CIFAR10(root='./data', train=False,
                                       download=True, transform=transform)
testloader =, batch_size=4,
                                         shuffle=False, num_workers=2)

classes = ('plane', 'car', 'bird', 'cat',
           'deer', 'dog', 'frog', 'horse', 'ship', 'truck')

Let us show some of the training images, for fun.

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import numpy as np

# functions to show an image

def imshow(img):
    img = img / 2 + 0.5     # unnormalize
    npimg = img.numpy()
    plt.imshow(np.transpose(npimg, (1, 2, 0)))

# get some random training images
dataiter = iter(trainloader)
images, labels =

# show images
# print labels
print(' '.join('%5s' % classes[labels[j]] for j in range(4)))

2. Define a Convolution Neural Network

Copy the neural network from the Neural Networks section before and modify it to take 3-channel images (instead of 1-channel images as it was defined).

from torch.autograd import Variable
import torch.nn as nn
import torch.nn.functional as F

class Net(nn.Module):
    def __init__(self):
        super(Net, self).__init__()
        self.conv1 = nn.Conv2d(3, 6, 5)
        self.pool = nn.MaxPool2d(2, 2)
        self.conv2 = nn.Conv2d(6, 16, 5)
        self.fc1 = nn.Linear(16 * 5 * 5, 120)
        self.fc2 = nn.Linear(120, 84)
        self.fc3 = nn.Linear(84, 10)

    def forward(self, x):
        x = self.pool(F.relu(self.conv1(x)))
        x = self.pool(F.relu(self.conv2(x)))
        x = x.view(-1, 16 * 5 * 5)
        x = F.relu(self.fc1(x))
        x = F.relu(self.fc2(x))
        x = self.fc3(x)
        return x

net = Net()

3. Define a Loss function and optimizer

Let’s use a Classification Cross-Entropy loss and SGD with momentum

import torch.optim as optim

criterion = nn.CrossEntropyLoss()
optimizer = optim.SGD(net.parameters(), lr=0.001, momentum=0.9)

4. Train the network

This is when things start to get interesting. We simply have to loop over our data iterator, and feed the inputs to the network and optimize

for epoch in range(2):  # loop over the dataset multiple times

    running_loss = 0.0
    for i, data in enumerate(trainloader, 0):
        # get the inputs
        inputs, labels = data

        # wrap them in Variable
        inputs, labels = Variable(inputs), Variable(labels)

        # zero the parameter gradients

        # forward + backward + optimize
        outputs = net(inputs)
        loss = criterion(outputs, labels)

        # print statistics
        running_loss +=[0]
        if i % 2000 == 1999:    # print every 2000 mini-batches
            print('[%d, %5d] loss: %.3f' %
                  (epoch + 1, i + 1, running_loss / 2000))
            running_loss = 0.0

print('Finished Training')

5. Test the network on the test data

We have trained the network for 2 passes over the training dataset. But we need to check if the network has learnt anything at all.

We will check this by predicting the class label that the neural network outputs, and checking it against the ground-truth. If the prediction is correct, we add the sample to the list of correct predictions.

Okay, first step. Let us display an image from the test set to get familiar.

dataiter = iter(testloader)
images, labels =

# print images
print('GroundTruth: ', ' '.join('%5s' % classes[labels[j]] for j in range(4)))

Okay, now let us see what the neural network thinks these examples above are:

outputs = net(Variable(images))

The outputs are energies for the 10 classes. Higher the energy for a class, the more the network thinks that the image is of the particular class. So, let’s get the index of the highest energy:

_, predicted = torch.max(, 1)

print('Predicted: ', ' '.join('%5s' % classes[predicted[j]]
                              for j in range(4)))

The results seem pretty good.

Let us look at how the network performs on the whole dataset.

correct = 0
total = 0
for data in testloader:
    images, labels = data
    outputs = net(Variable(images))
    _, predicted = torch.max(, 1)
    total += labels.size(0)
    correct += (predicted == labels).sum()

print('Accuracy of the network on the 10000 test images: %d %%' % (
    100 * correct / total))

That looks waaay better than chance, which is 10% accuracy (randomly picking a class out of 10 classes). Seems like the network learnt something.

Hmmm, what are the classes that performed well, and the classes that did not perform well:

class_correct = list(0. for i in range(10))
class_total = list(0. for i in range(10))
for data in testloader:
    images, labels = data
    outputs = net(Variable(images))
    _, predicted = torch.max(, 1)
    c = (predicted == labels).squeeze()
    for i in range(4):
        label = labels[i]
        class_correct[label] += c[i]
        class_total[label] += 1

for i in range(10):
    print('Accuracy of %5s : %2d %%' % (
        classes[i], 100 * class_correct[i] / class_total[i]))

Okay, so what next?

How do we run these neural networks on the GPU?

Training on GPU

Just like how you transfer a Tensor on to the GPU, you transfer the neural net onto the GPU. This will recursively go over all modules and convert their parameters and buffers to CUDA tensors:


Remember that you will have to send the inputs and targets at every step to the GPU too:

inputs, labels = Variable(inputs.cuda()), Variable(labels.cuda())

Why dont I notice MASSIVE speedup compared to CPU? Because your network is realllly small.

Exercise: Try increasing the width of your network (argument 2 of the first nn.Conv2d, and argument 1 of the second nn.Conv2d – they need to be the same number), see what kind of speedup you get.

Goals achieved:

  • Understanding PyTorch’s Tensor library and neural networks at a high level.
  • Train a small neural network to classify images