5 Best Ways to Use TensorFlow for Making Predictions with Python

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: You’ve built a machine learning model using TensorFlow and Python, and now you wish to understand the various methods for making predictions with this model. For instance, you’ve trained a model to classify images and now want to predict the class for a new set of images. The expected output is a set of predictions that tells you which class each image belongs to.

Method 1: Using the predict method

This is the most straightforward approach where TensorFlow’s built-in predict method of a model is used to generate predictions. The method expects input data in a form compatible with the model, typically an array or a batch of data, and outputs the predictions.

Here’s an example:

import tensorflow as tf

# Assuming 'model' is a pre-trained TensorFlow Keras model and 'test_data' is prepared data to predict
predictions = model.predict(test_data)


Output: [[0.1, 0.9], [0.8, 0.2], …]

The above code uses a pre-trained model named model to make predictions on a dataset called test_data. The output is an array of predictions, where each sub-array contains the predicted probabilities of each class.

Method 2: Using evaluate for prediction and performance assessment

With the evaluate function, we can both predict the output and assess the performance on a test dataset by comparing predictions to true labels. This method is usually adopted when you have a labeled test dataset.

Here’s an example:

test_loss, test_accuracy = model.evaluate(test_data, test_labels)

print(f"Test Accuracy: {test_accuracy}")

Output: Test Accuracy: 0.85

This snippet demonstrates using the evaluate function, where test_data contains the features and test_labels contains the true labels. The model outputs both loss and accuracy metrics, providing performance insights alongside predictions.

Method 3: Custom Prediction Loops with tf.data

For more control over the prediction process, a custom prediction loop can be built using the tf.data API. This method is useful when dealing with complex data pipelines or custom prediction steps.

Here’s an example:

for batch in tf.data.Dataset.from_tensor_slices(test_data).batch(32):
  batch_predictions = model(batch, training=False)

Output: [[0.07, 0.93], …, [0.6, 0.4]]

The tf.data API is utilized to create batches from the test_data, and the model makes predictions batch-wise. Printing the predictions within the loop allows for dynamic observation of the output.

Method 4: Implementing predict_on_batch for efficient batch predictions

For efficiently predicting on large sets of data, predict_on_batch can be used to process a single batch and return predictions. It bypasses some setup that predict does for every call, thus optimizing the process.

Here’s an example:

batch_predictions = model.predict_on_batch(single_batch_data)


Output: [[0.2, 0.8], …, [0.95, 0.05]]

Here, single_batch_data contains a single batch of data to predict on. The model quickly outputs predictions without the overhead that comes with predict calls.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Direct Class Predictions with predict_classes

Sometimes, you directly need the class labels instead of prediction probabilities. The predict_classes method serves precisely that, returning the index of the class with the highest probability.

Here’s an example:

class_predictions = model.predict_classes(test_data)


Output: [1, 0, …]

The one-liner predict_classes provides a clear and concise way to obtain class predictions from our test_data. It outputs the indices of maximum values across the probability distribution predicted by the model.


  • Method 1: Using predict. Strengths: Straightforward and built-in. Weaknesses: May not be efficient for large datasets without batching.
  • Method 2: Using evaluate. Strengths: Simultaneously assesses performance. Weaknesses: Requires true labels, not suitable for unlabeled prediction tasks.
  • Method 3: Custom Prediction Loops. Strengths: Greater control over prediction. Weaknesses: More complex to implement, requiring deeper knowledge of TensorFlow.
  • Method 4: Implementing predict_on_batch. Strengths: Optimized for batch predictions. Weaknesses: Not suited for individual or small number of predictions.
  • Method 5: Direct Class Predictions. Strengths: Direct output of class labels. Weaknesses: Available in older versions of Keras (deprecated in TensorFlow 2.x).