5 Effective Ways to Train Your Model Using Keras with Python

πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: Training a machine learning model can seem like an overwhelming task, especially to newcomers in the field. Keras simplifies this process by offering an intuitive set of tools to build and train models effectively. For instance, if you have an image dataset, you’d like to input this data into a deep learning model and train it to classify images with high accuracy.

Method 1: Using Sequential API for a Simple Model

Sequential API in Keras is suited for a plain stack of neural network layers where each layer has exactly one input tensor and one output tensor. It’s particularly advantageous for beginners due to its ease of use and understandability. You can build a model layer-by-layer in a step-by-step fashion.

Here’s an example:

from keras.models import Sequential
from keras.layers import Dense

# Define the model
model = Sequential([
    Dense(32, activation='relu', input_shape=(784,)),
    Dense(10, activation='softmax')

# Compile the model

# Example output (not a real output)
# Model: "sequential_1"
# _________________________________________________________________
# Layer (type)                 Output Shape              Param #   
# =================================================================
# dense_1 (Dense)              (None, 32)                25120     
# _________________________________________________________________
# dense_2 (Dense)              (None, 10)                330       
# =================================================================

This code snippet creates a simple neural network for multi-class classification, using a flattened input of 784 features (e.g., a 28×28 image flattened). The model has two layers, with the first layer having 32 neurons and using ReLU activation, and the second output layer using softmax activation for probabilities. The model is then compiled with the Adam optimizer and categorical crossentropy as the loss function to train on a multiclass classification problem.

Method 2: Using Functional API for Complex Models

Keras Functional API is a way to create models that are more flexible than the Sequential API, permitting the creation of models with non-linear topology, shared layers, and even multiple inputs or outputs. It’s a bit more complex but offers greater flexibility and is suited for advanced use cases.

Here’s an example:

from keras.models import Model
from keras.layers import Input, Dense

# This returns a tensor
inputs = Input(shape=(784,))

# A layer instance is callable on a tensor and returns a tensor
x = Dense(64, activation='relu')(inputs)
predictions = Dense(10, activation='softmax')(x)

# Create the model that includes the Input layer and three Dense layers
model = Model(inputs=inputs, outputs=predictions)

# Compile the model

Here, we’ve built a more complex model using the Functional API. The example defines a model with an input layer that takes in data with 784 features, followed by a dense layer with 64 neurons, and finally an output dense layer with 10 neurons corresponding to the classes of the classification task. The model is compiled similarly to those in the Sequential API.

Method 3: Using Pretrained Models for Transfer Learning

Transfer Learning is a powerful technique in which a model developed for one task is reused as the starting point for a model on another task. Using Keras, you can import pretrained models and fine-tune them to your specific dataset, allowing you to leverage high-performing models and architectures designed by experts.

Here’s an example:

from keras.applications import VGG16
from keras.models import Model
from keras.layers import Dense, GlobalAveragePooling2D

# Load the VGG model
base_model = VGG16(weights='imagenet', include_top=False)

# Freezing the layers
for layer in base_model.layers:
    layer.trainable = False

x = base_model.output
x = GlobalAveragePooling2D()(x)
x = Dense(1024, activation='relu')(x)
predictions = Dense(10, activation='softmax')(x)

# This is the model we will train
model = Model(inputs=base_model.input, outputs=predictions)

# Compile the model
model.compile(optimizer='adam', loss='categorical_crossentropy', metrics=['accuracy'])

The code snippet showcases how to utilize a pre-trained VGG16 model for a new task. We modify the output layers to suit our class size, but we keep the pretrained weights from ImageNet. The base layers are frozen, meaning their weights will not be updated during training, preserving the learned features. New layers are added for the specific classification task and the model is then compiled and ready for training.

Method 4: Implementing Callbacks for Training Efficiency

Callbacks are an important feature in Keras, allowing you to automate certain tasks at specific stages of the training process. This could be for model checkpointing, early stopping to prevent overfitting, or dynamic learning rate adjustments. They make the training process more efficient and less prone to common pitfalls.

Here’s an example:

from keras.callbacks import ModelCheckpoint, EarlyStopping

# Save the model after every epoch
checkpoint = ModelCheckpoint('model.h5', save_best_only=True)

# Stop training when a monitored quantity has stopped improving
early_stopping = EarlyStopping(monitor='val_loss', patience=3)

# The fit method now includes callbacks
history = model.fit(X_train, Y_train, validation_split=0.2, callbacks=[checkpoint, early_stopping])

The example provided demonstrates how to use ModelCheckpoint and EarlyStopping callbacks. ModelCheckpoint saves the model after every epoch, but only the best one, according to the validation loss. EarlyStopping stops the training process if the validation loss does not improve for a specified number of epochs, which is set to 3 in this case. This prevents overfitting and saves computational resources.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Using compile() and fit() for a Quick Start

Sometimes you just want to get started without worrying about the details. Keras offers a simple one-liner approach where you can compile and fit a model quickly with predefined settings.

Here’s an example:

# Assuming 'model' is already defined and ready for training
model.compile(optimizer='adam', loss='categorical_crossentropy', metrics=['accuracy'])
model.fit(X_train, Y_train, epochs=10, batch_size=32)

In this simplified code example, we compile the model with ‘adam’ optimizer and ‘categorical_crossentropy’ loss, which are often used defaults. Then we fit the model to our training data, specifying the number of epochs to train for and the batch size. This is a quick and uncomplicated way to start training a Keras model, ideal for standard tasks, prototyping, or when time is a constraint.


  • Method 1: Sequential API. Strengths: Simple and straightforward to use, ideal for beginners. Weaknesses: Not flexible enough for complex model architectures.
  • Method 2: Functional API. Strengths: High flexibility for creating intricate models with complex connections. Weaknesses: Requires a deeper understanding of Keras and model architecture planning.
  • Method 3: Pretrained Models for Transfer Learning. Strengths: Can leverage powerful, pre-trained models to save time and resources. Weaknesses: May require a lot of data for fine-tuning and can be computationally expensive to train.
  • Method 4: Implementing Callbacks. Strengths: More control over the training process and automatization of useful tasks, like preventing overfitting. Weaknesses: Must understand what each callback does and which situations they’re useful in.
  • Bonus Method 5: Using compile() and fit(). Strengths: Quick model deployment and training. Weaknesses: Less control over training parameters and defaults may not be optimal for all cases.