How to Create and Train Deep Learning Models

The three most common ways people use deep learning to perform object classification are:

  • Training from Scratch

To train a deep network from scratch, you gather a very large labeled data set and design a network architecture that will learn the features and model. This is good for new applications, or applications that will have a large number of output categories. This is a less common approach because with the large amount of data and rate of learning, these networks typically take days or weeks to train.

  • Transfer Learning

Most deep learning applications use the transfer learning approach, a process that involves fine-tuning a pretrained model. You start with an existing network, such as AlexNet or GoogLeNet, and feed in new data containing previously unknown classes. After making some tweaks to the network, you can now perform a new task, such as categorizing only dogs or cats instead of 1000 different objects. This also has the advantage of needing much less data (processing thousands of images, rather than millions), so computation time drops to minutes or hours.

Transfer learning requires an interface to the internals of the pre-existing network, so it can be surgically modified and enhanced for the new task. MATLABĀ® has tools and functions designed to help you do transfer learning.


A slightly less common, more specialized approach to deep learning is to use the network as a feature extractor. Since all the layers are tasked with learning certain features from images, we can pull these features out of the network at any time during the training process. These features can then be used as input to a machine learning model such as support vector machines (SVM).