5 Best Ways to Visualize the Flower Dataset Using TensorFlow and Python

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: In the realm of machine learning and image processing, the Flower dataset presents a varied set of challenges for visualization. In an ideal scenario, we’d like to input the multiclass flower images and output visual interpretations that can aid in understanding the dataset’s composition, diversity, and features to build better classification models.

Method 1: Using TensorFlow’s Dataset Utilities

TensorFlow’s Dataset API includes utilities for loading and preprocessing datasets. For the Flower dataset, which is a popular benchmark dataset in TensorFlow, we can leverage the tfds module to load the dataset and then visualize images using matplotlib.

Here’s an example:

import tensorflow_datasets as tfds
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

# Load the flower dataset
dataset, metadata = tfds.load('tf_flowers', as_supervised=True, with_info=True)

# Take one sample and visualize
for image, label in dataset['train'].take(1):

The output displays the first flower image in the dataset.

This example demonstrates how we can leverage TensorFlow Dataset utilities combined with matplotlib to visualize individual images from the Flower dataset. It helps in getting a quick look at the data for preliminary assessments.

Method 2: Feature Visualization Using t-SNE

t-SNE (t-distributed Stochastic Neighbor Embedding) is a technique for dimensionality reduction that is particularly well-suited for the visualization of high-dimensional datasets. We can use it with TensorFlow to plot a 2D map of the Flower dataset where similar instances are modeled by nearby points and dissimilar instances are modeled by distant points.

Here’s an example:

from sklearn.manifold import TSNE
import seaborn as sns

# Assuming `features` are extracted representations, perhaps via a pre-trained ConvNet
tsne = TSNE()
transformed_features = tsne.fit_transform(features)

# Plot using seaborn for a pretty graph
    palette=sns.hue_palette("hsv", n_colors=len(set(labels)))

A scatter plot shows the 2D t-SNE mapping colored by species labels.

This snippet takes high-dimensional features from the Flower dataset, reduces their dimensionality with t-SNE, and then visualizes them with a scatter plot. This is useful for assessing the separability of classes at a feature level.

Method 3: Generating Heatmaps with Class Activation Maps

Class Activation Maps (CAM) are a way to visualize the parts of the image that contribute the most to the classification decision of a convolutional neural network (CNN). By using TensorFlow, we can modify a pretrained model to output these heatmap visualizations for the Flower dataset.

Here’s an example:

import numpy as np
import tensorflow as tf
import cv2

# Load a pretrained model and modify to get feature maps
model = tf.keras.applications.VGG16(weights='imagenet', include_top=False)
model.trainable = False
feature_model = tf.keras.Model(inputs=model.input, outputs=model.layers[-1].output)

# Assuming `img` is a preprocessed image from the Flower dataset
feature_maps = feature_model.predict(tf.expand_dims(img, axis=0))

# Generate heatmap
heatmap = np.mean(feature_maps, axis=-1).squeeze()
heatmap = np.maximum(heatmap, 0) / np.max(heatmap)

# Display heatmap

A visualization of the heatmap overlaying the original flower image is displayed.

The example extracts feature maps using a pretrained model (VGG16 in this case), creates a heatmap by averaging those feature maps, and then displays it with matplotlib. This can help identify which parts of the images are most informative for classification.

Method 4: Visualizing Convolutional Filters

Understanding what convolutional neural network (CNN) filters learn can be insightful. TensorFlow allows us to access the layers of a pretrained model and visualize the filters that are used to detect features in the images of flowers.

Here’s an example:

import matplotlib.cm as cm

# Assuming `model` is a pretrained Keras CNN model
filters, biases = model.layers[1].get_weights()

# Normalize filter values between 0 and 1 for visualization
f_min, f_max = filters.min(), filters.max()
filters = (filters - f_min) / (f_max - f_min)

# Plot first few filters
n_filters, ix = 6, 1
for i in range(n_filters):
    f = filters[:, :, :, i]
    for j in range(3):
        ax = plt.subplot(n_filters, 3, ix)
        plt.imshow(f[:, :, j], cmap='viridis')
        ix += 1

A grid of images showing the first few filters of the CNN is shown.

This code takes the filters from the first convolutional layer of a pretrained CNN (assumed name `model`). It normalizes these filters into a 0-1 range and then visualizes the first six filters across their color channels using matplotlib. This could give us insight into the low-level features that the network uses to understand flowers.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Displaying Images with tf.keras.preprocessing

If you simply need to display images from the dataset quickly, TensorFlow’s Keras preprocessing tools offer a very terse and effective one-liner.

Here’s an example:


The specified flower image is opened in a default image viewer.

This one-liner leverages the tf.keras.preprocessing module to quickly convert an image tensor to a displayable image and then opens it up in the default system image viewer. It’s perfect for rapid visualization without needing to plot or write additional code.


  • Method 1: TensorFlow’s Dataset API and matplotlib. Strengths: Easy and direct visualization of dataset images. Weaknesses: Limited to individual images; not scalable for large datasets.
  • Method 2: t-SNE visualization. Strengths: Good at representing high-level features in 2D space for discerning cluster formation. Weaknesses: Computationally expensive for large datasets and perplexity parameter can be tricky to tune.
  • Method 3: CAM heatmaps. Strengths: Identifies influential regions in images for classification decision. Weaknesses: Requires a CNN model and can be complex to set up.
  • Method 4: Visualization of CNN filters. Strengths: Provides insights into the early feature detection in CNNs. Weaknesses: Only applicable to convolutional layers, and interpretations can be abstract.
  • Method 5: Quick image display with Keras preprocessing. Strengths: Extremely simple and quick for single images. Weaknesses: Not informative for dataset-wide patterns or analysis.