How To Use Snapchat: Filters, Lenses, Stories – a Complete Guide


Snapchat has come a long way from when it first started up. It has become one of the most popular social networking apps in the world.

But this ephemeral messaging app can get a little confusing to use. In this post, we’ll take a look at how you can use Snapchat like a pro, starting with the basics and working our way up towards popular features like Stories, Filters, Lenses, Trophies, etc.

First of all, let’s get to the very basics.

What is Snapchat

Snapchat is a different kind of text, video and photo messaging app created in September 2011 by Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown. It is unlike most messaging apps because the texts, videos, photos and/or drawings (called ‘Snaps’) that you send out to your friends (recipients) can only be viewed once and for a very short period of time (1 – 10 seconds).


According to latest reports, Snapchat sees over 7 billion DAILY video views.

This messaging app is most popular among teens and young adults, primarily because the app is ideal for sending selfies, even the bad ones, and short videos of oneself — trends widely popular among today’s young generation. And because these snaps are deleted from Snapchat’s servers once they are viewed, you don’t really have to take the perfect selfie or video. Heck, you can even send out a naked selfie, if that’s what you’re into.

Of course, you should note — and this is important — that viewers can take screenshots of your snaps during the very limited time you allow for them to view the snaps.

Not very long ago, Snapchat introduced a feature called ‘Stories’. Snapchat Stories last for 24 hours. And this is what really propelled Snapchat to the phenomenon that it has become today. Stories are a series of snaps that can be viewed in chronological order for 24 hours. This functionality has allowed for advertisers and public figures to send out their story to followers, including endorsements.

Also, there is a ‘live stories’ feature that allows live streaming of events from different users.

We’ll get into all these details in the later part of this post. If you’re confused about all the icons and emojis, we got you covered in another post: Snapchat Symbols: Meaning of all Snapchat Icons & Emojis

But one great feature of Snapchat, often widely underrated, is that all the data sent and received is deleted from Snapchat’s servers, and therefore, your phone once you have viewed the snap. This greatly save you from the ‘Storage Space Running Out’ error so often seen in mobiles devices. Most messaging apps, WhatsApp in particular, cause this error because all the data, including texts, videos and photos are downloaded straight to your device thus causing your phone memory to run out all too soon. Snapchat’s data are not stored in your device memory; so, your phone memory is never affected, more or less.

It’s not the perfect app because it doesn’t allow you to save some snaps to your camera roll or phone memory, but no app is perfect; and it’s perfect in a way because it doesn’t take up much of your phone memory.

Installing & Downloading Snapchat

As of now, Snapchat is available only for Android and iPhone. It is unfortunately unavailable for other phones (Blackberry, Windows, etc.). Hopefully, Snapchat will expand to other OS.

Either way, installing Snapchat on Android and iPhone is like installing any other app; it’s easy as 1-2-3. Go to Play Store or iTunes App Store and search for ‘Snapchat’. Tap on the ‘Download’ or ‘Get’ button. Once downloaded, the app will install itself.


Here are the official links:

Android: Snapchat for Android

iPhone: Snapchat for iOS

If you are unable to download Snapchat from these official stores, here is the direct link to the apk version of the latest Snapchat app. You can directly download this file to your phone and install it from your phone.

Snapchat Download (APK File): Download Snapchat (APK File)

For latest news on new updates and Snapchat for Blackberry and Windows Phone, do check out Snapchat’s official website.

Snapchat Login: Signing Up on Snapchat

Signing up on Snapchat is easy. Once you have installed the app, open it. You will see an option to Log In or Register. Tap on ‘Register’.


You will have to enter your Email address, Password and Birthday. Once you have registered and verified your email, you can fill up other details such as your username, your phone number, name, etc.

You can also login to Snapchat from your computer using your web browser. To do this, go to


How To Use Snapchat: The Basics

While using Snapchat is pretty straightforward — open app, take a selfie and send it to your friends — there’s more to it than just that. We’ll take a look at all the things you can do with this app one by one.

How to Add Friends on Snapchat

Like most social networking sites and apps, Snapchat is no fun without having your friends on board. And the first and most important step in using Snapchat, once you have installed it, is to add and/or find friends. Here’s a detailed guide on how to add friends on Snapchat.

To start adding friends, tap on the snapchat icon (ghost icon) at the top center of your screen. You will see an option to ‘Add Friends’. Tap on it.


Under ‘Add Friends’, you will have different options to add friends. The first and easiest way is to add by Username. If you know the usernames of friends you want to add, tap on the ‘Add by Username’ option and enter the username of your friends, once Snapchat has detected the profile of this username, tap on the + symbol to add him/her to your contacts. Do this for all the friends whose Usernames you know. You can also follow celebrities and other public figures if you know their usernames.


Here is a list of usernames of interesting Snapchat users and celebrities.

The second way to Add Friends to your Snapchat is by directly going through your Phone Contacts list. To do this, tap on the ‘Add from Address Book’ option under ‘Add Friends’. You will see a list of all the people from your Address Book that use Snapchat under ‘Snapchatters in My Contacts’. You can add them by tapping on the + sign next to their names/usernames.

If someone you recently added to your contacts list do not appear under the ‘Snapchatters in My Contacts’ list, then click on the refresh icon at the top right corner of your screen.

Another way to add someone on Snapchat is using the ‘Snapcode’. Snapcode is much like a QR Code. Every Snapchat user is assigned a unique Snapcode. This Snapcode is the yellow rounded square with a white Snapchat logo of a ghost and black dots on the yellow region. You can see your Snapcode when you click on the ghost icon when opening Snapchat.


Snapcode can be easily shared by taking a screenshot of it. If you have a picture containing the Snapcode of someone you want to add, you can add that person to your Snapchat Friends list by tapping on the ‘Add by Snapcode’ option under ‘Add Friends’. Simply select the picture containing the Snapcode and Snapchat will automatically detect the profile associated with that Snapcode.

Also, if you do not already have the Snapcode of that person, you can take a photo of your computer or screenshot of your mobile screen where the Snapcode is displayed and select that photo under the ‘Add by Snapcode’ option.

The last option to Add Friends on Snapchat is using the ‘Add Nearby’ option. This works very much like Buletooth services. Snapchat uses Global Positioning System (GPS) to identify Snapchatters that are located close-by. It displays a list of all the people who use Snapchat that are close to where you are at. When you see the profile of someone you want to add, tap on the + button. This feature is very useful when a bunch of you are in the same room and want to add each other on Snapchat.

There is also a Quick Add option below. This displays the latest contacts that you have added to your Phone’s Address Book who use Snapchat.

How To Edit & Send Snaps (Photos, Videos, Texts) on Snapchat

You cannot send pre-edited photos and videos on Snapchat. This means that all the Snaps that you see are original, directly taken and captured by the sender from their phone camera. However, it’s possible to send pictures from your phone via Snapchat Chat feature. This will be discussed in the later part of this post.

Snapchat, of course, allows editing of photos and videos that you have captured via Snapchat, and there are several features and filters on Snapchat that allows you to do this.

Using Snapchat is pretty straightforward actually. Upon opening the app, you will see that your camera is on. On the top right corner of your screen, you will see an option to change camera — front and back. If you want to take a selfie, turn on the front camera. If you want to capture a video, tap and hold the capture icon for as long as you want to record the video.

1. Editing Your Photos & Videos on Snapchat

Once you have taken a picture or video, this is where it gets interesting. You will have a wide array of options to edit the picture.

If you’re not satisfied with the picture or video you just took however, you can take another by clicking on the x icon on the top left corner of your screen. This will delete the picture just taken and turn on the camera to take another snap.


Adding EMOTICONS / STICKERS: When you’re satisfied with the picture, you can start editing. The first edit tool on Snapchat is the emoticons tool. This is the square with rounded corners at the top of the screen. When you tap on it, you will see a set of emoticons. Tap on an emoticon to add to your picture. You can insert as many number of emoticons as you want.

To enlarge your emoticon(s), use two of your fingers to drag the corners. You can also rotate the emoticon as you wish. If you want to delete the emoticon, simply drag it to the same position you get the emoticon from, the rounded square would have turned into a trash can icon when you tap on the emoticon. Drag and drop it there to remove it.

Inserting TEXT on Snaps: The next edit tool on Snapchat is the Text tool. This is indicated by a large T on the top right corner of your screen.

The text edit tool allows you to add a line of text across your picture or video. This text is usually a caption of your picture or video, or anything you want to add. However, this caption is limited to one line only. But there is a way to type more in the limited one line. This is done by rotating your phone 90 degrees, that is by putting it in the landscape position.

Drag the text to any part of the screen to position it.

You can also insert Text on your picture and video simply by tapping on any part of the screen. This will bring up the text edit feature. Here are some interesting Snapchat captions for your inspiration.

SKETCHING on your Snap: Next up, you have the Draw/Sketch tool. The draw tool can be activated by tapping on the pencil icon on the top right corner of your screen.

Once you tap on the Draw/Sketch tool, you will see a set of colours. You can choose the colour of your brush by tapping on the desired colour from this set. The selected colour will appear on the pencil icon.

You can draw anything and everything on the picture, which is now your canvas.

2. Adding Filters to Your Snaps

The next edit tool you can use on your snaps is Filters. Because Snapchat Filters are somewhat location-based, Snapchat will require you to activate GPS on your phone. If you haven’t already activated Location services on your phone, Snapchat will ask you to do so.

Also, you have to enable Filters from your Snapchat Settings first. We have written a detailed guide on how to use Snapchat filters in another post.

To add Filters to your Snaps, swipe across your screen. There are different filters and colour tones that you can add to your picture. To access these different Filters and colour tones, swipe across your picture or video one after another until you find the desired effect you want to add.

Also, there are data filters that appear only when a condition is met on your phone. For instance, when your phone’s battery level is below 10%, a low battery filter will be available, and when it is above 90%, another filter will appear.

By default, these are the filters that you have access to: Sepia, Vintage, Black and White, Speed (when you take a picture from a moving vehicle), Temperature, Time, City. You can change how these appear by tapping on the written text on the screen.

You can also use two filters in one snap. To do this, tap and hold on any color filter. While still holding, use another finger to swipe and enable a data filter.

3. How To Use Snapchat Lenses

Snapchat Lenses were introduced by Snapchat in September 2015. Lenses are free for first-time users, but Snapchat may charge you if you want to keep them.

As of January 8, 2016, Snapchat closed its Lens Store. We’re still not sure if we can keep using Lenses for free or if they’d be opening the Lens store again. It was reported recently that about 10 millions snaps with lenses are sent everyday.

Anyway, here’s what you need to know about Snapchat Lenses.

Snapchat Lenses are animations overlaid on top of your selfie. Most of the lenses are goofy, like an animated cat features overlaid on your selfie.

Here’s how you can use Lenses on your Snaps:

  • On your camera screen, activate the selfie camera (front-facing camera).
  • When the camera is pointed at you (that is, when your face appears on the screen), tap and hold on the screen (your face).
  • When you release your finger, you will see a set of filters towards the bottom of your screen.
  • Swipe across these lenses, following all on-screen instructions until you find the lens you want to use.
  • Tap the capture button to take a picture Snap; hold on the capture button to record a video with the lens you selected.


There are different lenses you can apply to your snaps. If Snapchat has shut down its Lens Store, we’ll assume that all the lenses are now free, which would be great.

Either way, it’s important to know that you may not be able to access some lenses, as some of these are specific to geographic locations and/or occasions.

By default, you will see 10 lenses, which are free to use. Explore them to know more.

4. Setting the Countdown Timer on Your Snap

Once you have done all necessary edits to your snap, it’s time you set the countdown timer. The Snapchat countdown timer is located on the bottom left corner of your screen. When you tap on it, you will see an option of 1 second – 10 seconds.


The Countdown Timer is the number of seconds that recipients will be able to see your snap. If you set the timer to 5 seconds, your friends will be able to view the snap for 5 seconds after which the snap will be deleted and can never be viewed again. Of course, there can be replays and a chance of the snap being screenshot.

The timer should be set carefully. If you send out a nude picture or an embarrassing selfie for instance, you might want to set the timer to only a few seconds (1 – 3 seconds), so that the person on the other end does not have enough time to take a screenshot of your nude.

If it’s a healthy, very safe-for-work picture, it’s perfectly okay to give more viewing time to your recipients.

Videos do not have a timer.

5. Saving Your Snap to Your Phone

It’s good practice to save your snap to your phone before you send it out. This is especially if you have worked on it, sketched on it, applied some fancy filters on it; you wouldn’t want to let all that hard work go to waste. Because if you do not download the snap to your phone, you can never see that snap again.

To save your snap to your phone, tap on the V (Download) icon right next to the Timer icon on the bottom left part of your screen. This will automatically download your snap to your phone.

6. Sending Out Your Snap – As a Story and/or as a Private Message

There are three ways to send out your snaps. One, as a story, the other to a selected list of your friends, and the third, both to your story and to your friends. Let’s take a closer look.

But first, what are Snapchat Stories?

Snapchat Stories are a series of snaps — pictures and videos — that are strung together in one narrative. Stories last for 24 hours and can be viewed by anyone who visits your profile, just your friends or a selected list of recipients, depending on your privacy settings.


Every time you send out a snap, you will have an option to add it to your Story. All these snaps form a story, your story for the day.

To add a Snap to your story, tap on the square with a + icon on the bottom center of your screen.

After adding a snap to your story, you can also send out your snap to your friends. To do this, tap on the arrow icon on the bottom right corner of your screen. A list of all your friends will open. Select the recipients/friends you want to send out your snap to. You can also select ‘My Story’ to add the snap to your story.

Once you have selected the recipients, tap on the blue arrow bar at the bottom of the screen to send out the snap.

You should know that you don’t necessarily have to add your Snap to your Story. You can send out your Snap to just one person or to multiple contacts by selecting those contacts.

Snapchat Stories — A Closer Look

Stories is one of the features that makes the Snapchat experience more fun. We’ve already covered some basics of Snapchat Stories. Here’s a more detailed information on the feature.

Stories can be viewed as many number of times within 24 hours. Each snap in a Story is deleted after 24 hours and cannot be viewed again.

To view stories of your friends or people that you follow, open Snapchat, swipe left on your Camera screen. Scroll down till you see ‘Recent Updates’.

Under Recent Updates, you will see a list of your friends who had posted a Story. To view a Friend’s story, tap on his/her name.

Once you have started playing a Story, you will see a countdown on the top right corner of your screen. This countdown shows you how much time you have left to view the snap and story. There are two countdowns indicated by circles. The outer circle indicates the countdown for the snap you’re currently viewing, showing you how much time you have left to view the snap. The inner circle gives the countdown for the entire story, indicating the time remaining to view the entire story.


If you want to skip to the next snap in a story, tap on the screen.

If you want to add a comment or reply on a particular snap in a story, swipe up across the screen.

If you want to exit or close the story, swipe down.

You can view a story as many number of times within 24 hours. Every time you view a story, it will start playing from the beginning.

You cannot delete an entire story. But you can delete snaps in your Story.

To Delete a snap you have added in Your Story, tap on the dotted bar on the right of ‘My Story’. Select the snap you want to delete by tapping on it. This will bring up the snap in question. You will see a delete/trash icon on the bottom of the screen. Tap on it to delete the snap.

snapchat stories

Tap on the dotted bar again to close the list of snaps.

It’s also possible to Save your entire story and/or individual snaps in your story to your phone. To download your entire Story, tap on the dotted bar to the right of ‘My Story’. You will see a download icon just next to the dotted bar. Tap on it to download your story.

To save an individual Snap in a Story, tap on the snap. When the snap appears on your screen, tap on the download icon on the bottom right corner of your screen. The snap will be downloaded to your phone’s Camera Roll or Gallery.

Snapchat also has a feature to show you who has viewed and screenshotted your snaps in a Story. To see who has viewed your Snap, tap on the snap. One the bottom left corner of your snap, you will see an eye icon, tap on it to see who has viewed your snap. There’s also a screenshot icon given by crossing arrows. Tap on this icon to see who has taken a screenshot of your Snap.

It should be noted here that only the names of the first 100 persons who has viewed or screenshotted your snap can be seen in this list. The rest is indicated by a +__more.

It is also possible to see these numbers directly from the snaps list (under your Story) when you tap on the dotted bar.

Tap on a snap to close the snap.

Viewing and Saving Snaps From Your Friends

To view snaps that your friends have sent you, go to the camera screen of Snapchat and swipe right across your screen. You will see all the snaps that you haven’t viewed.

If a friend has sent you multiple snaps, an icon will appear next to his/her name as a stack of flipbooks. This is quite similar to Stories.

To view a snap, tap on it. For multiple snaps from a contact, the procedure is the same as that for Stories.

If you want to view multiple snaps individually, swipe right across the name of your friend.

Snapchat does not provide you with an option to save a snap sent to you by your friends. The only way to do this is by taking a screenshot. We have discovered new ways to save snapchat videos and photos, these are discussed in another post.

While some snaps are set for longer viewing time, some are set to a mere 3 seconds of viewing time. If you have fast fingers, you might have time to take a screenshot.

However, if you do manage to take a screenshot, your friend will be alerted that you have taken a screenshot.

Meaning of Snapchat ICONS

Here are all the Snapchat Icons and their meanings.

There are different icons on Snapchat, with different colours. All of these icons have meanings. Here’s all the icons with their respective meanings.




Chatting on Snapchat — Text & Video Chat

It’s possible to send texts over Snapchat. To do this, go to your inbox screen and swipe right across a friend’s name.

If your friend’s name is not on the inbox screen, tap on the chat icon on the top right corner of your screen, tap on the name of your friend from your Friends list and start chatting.

If your friend is online, an online icon will appear. You can video chat live by tapping on the camera icon. Hold for as long as you want to chat.

You can also send photos from your phone gallery or camera roll by tapping on the camera icon. When the camera screen comes up, tap on the gallery icon at the bottom right. Select the photo you want to send.

Snaps and texts exchanged over chat appear for as long as the chat window is opened. If you want to save an important text, like an address or phone number, tap on the text. You can view this saved text at a later time.

You can also view a friend’s profile on Chat by tapping on the 3 blue bars next to their name. This will bring up their profile.

How To Block, Unblock & Unfriend Someone on Snapchat

There are all sorts of things you can do on Snapchat. Exploring a little will reveal more of the many features that make Snapchat the great app it is.

Go to your Friends list, tap on a friend’s name. This will pop up a window with your friend’s Snapcode and other details.

To block or unfriend that person, tap on the settings icon on the right. You will have an option to ‘Edit Name’, ‘Remove Friend’ and ‘Block’ the person.

snapchat friends

To Unblock someone on Snapchat, go to Settings. Scroll down to the very bottom. Under Account Actions, you will see ‘Blocked’. Tap on it to open a list of the people you have blocked. Tap on the name of the person you want to unblock.

Snapchat Trophies — Unlock all Trophies

Snapchat Trophies are a sort of rewards that Snapchat give you for using its app. You can see your Trophies by tapping on the Trophy icon at the top of your screen on your profile page.

While Snapchat does not release an official list of all trophies, it does mention that the more you explore Snapchat, the more trophies you will receive. For instance, you will unlock a trophy when you verify your email, another trophy when you verify your phone number. It goes on. The more you explore new features on Snapchat, the more trophies you will receive.

Snapchat introduced the Trophies feature in September 2015 and has since updated the trophies list on December 2015.

Here is a list of all the Snapchat trophies that you can unlock:






snapchat trophies

But of course, if you’re upto the challenge, you might want to unlock the trophies yourself by exploring all the features of Snapchat.

Snapchat Friend Emojis

In its earlier versions, Snapchat had a ‘Best Friends’ feature. This was a love-to-hate feature that kind of violates someone’s privacy in some way.

In early 2015, Snapchat released an update that introduced Friend Emojis and removed the ‘Best Friends’ feature.

Snapchat Friend Emojis indicate your level of friendship with someone. These emojis appear as emoticons next to your Friend’s name in your inbox.

There are eight Snapchat Friend Emojis and two other Emojis that indicate replays and snapstreak. By default, these are indicated by the following icons:



But you can change the icon for each Emoji by going to your Settings > Additional Services > Friend Emojis. Tap on an Emoji to change its icon.

A more detailed post has been written on our website about Snapchat Friend Emojis here.

Snapchat Score

Snapchat score is the total number of snaps sent and received. Everytime you send out a snap, you get a point. You also get a point for every snap you receive, although much of this is debated.

We’ll not go into much detail about Snapchat Score in this post as I’ve written extensively on the subject in another post only very recently — Snapchat Score Explained: How To Increase Your Score.

A trophy is unlocked after you achieve a certain Snapchat Score.


One Comment so far

  1. February 21, 2016 at 1:47 am | Permalink


3 Trackbacks

  1. By 6 New Snapchat Hacks You Didn't Know Existed on February 10, 2016 at 10:39 am

    […] already covered in detail how to use Snapchat in an earlier post, including most features of Snapchat. We’ve also written extensively on […]

  2. […] published a really long guide on how to use Snapchat in an earlier post. And we’ve covered briefly how to find and add new friends in that […]

  3. […] covered extensively on how to use Snapchat lenses in another article, so we shall not get into all the details […]