Lightly at a Glance

Lightly is a computer vision framework for training deep learning models using self-supervised learning. The framework can be used for a wide range of useful applications such as finding the nearest neighbors, similarity search, transfer learning, or data analytics.

Additionally, you can use the Lightly framework to directly interact with the lightly platform.

You can install lightly using pip.

pip install lightly

How Lightly Works

The flexible design of Lightly makes it easy to integrate in your Python code. Lightly is built completely around PyTorch frameworks and the different pieces can be put together to fit your requirements.

Data and Transformations

The basic building block of self-supervised methods such as SimCLR are image transformations. Each image is transformed into two new images by randomly applied augmentations. The task of the self-supervised model is then to identify the images which come from the same original among a set of negative examples.

Lightly implements these transformations as torchvision transforms in the collate function of the dataloader. For example, the collate function below will apply two different, randomized transforms to each image: A randomized resized crop and a random color jitter.

import as data

# the collate function applies random transforms to the input images
collate_fn = data.ImageCollateFunction(input_size=32, cj_prob=0.5)

Let’s now load an image dataset and create a PyTorch dataloader with the collate function from above.

import torch

# create a dataset from your image folder
dataset = data.LightlyDataset(input_dir='./my/cute/cats/dataset/')

# build a PyTorch dataloader
dataloader =
    dataset,                # pass the dataset to the dataloader
    batch_size=128,         # a large batch size helps with the learning
    shuffle=True,           # shuffling is important!
    collate_fn=collate_fn)  # apply transformations to the input images

Head to the next section to see how you can train a ResNet on the data you just prepared.


Now, we need an embedding model, an optimizer and a loss function. We use a ResNet together with the normalized temperature-scaled cross entropy loss and simple stochastic gradient descent.

import torchvision

import lightly.models as models
import lightly.loss as loss

# use a resnet backbone
resnet = torchvision.models.resnet.resnet18()
resnet = nn.Sequential(*list(resnet.children())[:-1])

# build the simclr model
model = models.SimCLR(resnet, num_ftrs=512)

# use a criterion for self-supervised learning
# (normalized temperature-scaled cross entropy loss)
criterion = loss.NTXentLoss(temperature=0.5)

# get a PyTorch optimizer
optimizer = torch.optim.SGD(model.parameters(), lr=1e-0, weight_decay=1e-5)

Put everything together in an embedding model and train it for 10 epochs on a single GPU.

import lightly.embedding as embedding

# put all the pieces together in a single pytorch_lightning trainable!
embedding_model = embedding.SelfSupervisedEmbedding(

# do self-supervised learning for 10 epochs
embedding_model.train_embedding(gpus=1, max_epochs=10)

Congrats, you just trained your first model using self-supervised learning!


You can use the trained model to embed your images or even access the embedding model directly.

# make a new dataloader without the transformations
dataloader =
    dataset,        # use the same dataset as before
    batch_size=1,   # we can use batch size 1 for inference
    shuffle=False,  # don't shuffle your data during inference

# embed your image dataset
embeddings, labels, filenames = embedding_model.embed(dataloader)

# access the ResNet backbone
resnet = embedding_model.model.backbone

Done! You can continue to use the embeddings to find nearest neighbors or do similarity search. Furthermore, the ResNet backbone can be used for transfer and few-shot learning.


Self-supervised learning does not require labels for a model to be trained on. Lightly, however, supports the use of additional labels. For example, if you train a model on a folder ‘cats’ with subfolders ‘Maine Coon’, ‘Bengal’ and ‘British Shorthair’ Lightly automatically returns the enumerated labels as a list.

Lightly in Three Lines

Lightly also offers an easy-to-use interface. The following lines show how the package can be used to train a model with self-supervision and create embeddings with only three lines of code.

from lightly import train_embedding_model, embed_images

# first we train our model for 10 epochs
checkpoint = train_embedding_model(input_dir='./my/cute/cats/dataset/', trainer={'max_epochs': 10})

# let's embed our 'cats' dataset using our trained model
embeddings, labels, filenames = embed_images(input_dir='./my/cute/cats/dataset/', checkpoint=checkpoint)

# now, let's inspect the shape of our embeddings

What’s next?

Get started by Installing Lightly and follow through the tutorials to learn how to get the most out of using Lightly: