Despite Snapchat’s rapid rise as a social media trend, it’s always proved a bit unintuitive. The social network occasionally updates the layout to make things simpler to use, but for those of us who have been confused by the app, it simply enhances the learning curve. But fear not: we’re here to walk you through the basics of how to use Snapchat.
Set up Snapchat
Snapchat is a free download from Google Play or the App Store. After installing the app, you will be prompted to sign up for a free account with your email address and DOB, and will be asked to choose a username. Choose this wisely, as you cannot change it later.
Snapchat will then ask for access to your contacts to find your friends who have used the service. This is the recommended option, although you can do so manually if you wish.
Take your first photo
When you launch Snapchat, you’ll see a view from your phone’s front-facing camera. You can tap the large circular icon at the bottom of the screen to take a photo, or long-press to record a video. But that would be ignoring many of the great Lenses and filters that make Snapchat so popular with the younger generation…
Adding ‘Lens’, filters and effects to Snaps
With your face in view, press and hold on your face. You’ll see a white grid appear, then some new circular icons will appear to the right of the shutter button. You can scroll through these ‘Lens’ to add different filters and effects. The providers are updated regularly.
Some filters will guide you to open your mouth or raise your eyebrows for the full effect. Some can also change your voice, which you’ll want to video rather than Snap.
Try it, but remember your surroundings if you’re in public, otherwise you’ll get some weird looks!
At the end of the available lenses is a double-sided display number. This is Face Swap and one of Snapchat’s most popular features. You can swap faces with an actual person standing next to you, or use a photo from your phone’s photo library (which has led to some very interesting swaps. Learn more about using Swap. face here.
Edit your Snap
After taking a Snap, you’ll see new icons appear on the right edge of the screen. They allow you to add text, doodle, and add stickers.
You’ll also find an option to add a second filter, and these are different options for what you’ll see the first time around.
The bottom option allows you to set a time limit for how long your friends can see your Snap. The beauty of Snapchat is that the images self-destruct once they’re viewed – unless they take a screenshot, of course.
Note, however, that when taking a screenshot of someone else’s Snap, they will receive a notification. There are many ways to solve this problem.
Send your Snap
Once you’ve taken a photo you like, the idea is to share it with your friends. Tap the blue arrow icon to Send. Additionally, at the bottom of the window there are options to download a photo (so you can download a photo without all the icons on the side) or add it to your Story. We will talk about that later.
After pressing the Send button, you need to choose a contact to send the Snap to. Select the contact(s) from the list or choose to add to My Story, Our Story or an existing group using the icons at the top. Now click on the blue send arrow again.
Communicate with friends on Snapchat
Snapchat really isn’t just about sending your friends funny photos and videos. It can also be used as a messaging platform and make video calls (even group video calls).
Launch the app and swipe in from the left to see your friends. You can tap on any contact here to start a conversation, where you’ll find simple options for texting as well as sending photos and calling.
At the top of your friends list, you’ll see some people who have ‘Added to Story’. These are Snaps that they don’t send you directly, but you can see them all the same. You’ll also regularly see messages from Team Snapchat here. Just tap to view.
Be sure to avoid these Snapchat scams.
Snapchat can be fun even for people who don’t like taking selfies. Swipe in from the right side of the home screen and you’ll find Explore, listing Snapchat Stories from your friends along with major brands, magazines, newspapers, and other popular Snapchatters. Just tap to view any content that interests you.
You’ll find in-depth instructions on how to use Snap Map here, but essentially, you just need to drag the screen to open the Map. You can view Snaps of breaking news and events or Featured Snaps here, or add your own Snaps. To add a Snap to a Map, make sure you submit it to Our Story and not My Story.
However, for some users, Snap Map has the potential to be a bit creepy. If you’re worried but added the feature, follow our instructions to disable Snap Map.
Tap the profile icon in the top left corner of the home screen to bring up a page containing your personal Snapchat code (see how to use Snapcodes). You will see the trophy icon below. Click here to see what trophies you’ve unlocked – they’re essentially the same achievements you get on computer games.
Use Snapchat on PC
Snapchat is a mobile app, so you should no doubt use it on a smartphone or maybe a tablet. However, you can use it on a PC or laptop so learn how.
If you’ve been through all that and you’re still confused, maybe Snapchat isn’t for you. We show you how to delete your Snapchat account here. You can also read our guide that discusses whether Snapchat is safe for kids.
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