How to Use Snapchat Filters

Before we learn how to use Snapchat Filters, it is imperative that you know the difference between filters and lenses.

Although both the terms ‘filters’ and ‘lenses’ are, most times, simply called Filters on Snapchat, they are not the same.

Filters are layovers that you can add to your photos; lenses however are special effects that you can add to your photos and videos. Theses special effects (lenses) are built mostly to warp or distort your face.


Filters are of two types — default filters (color tones, time, temperature, etc.) and Geofilters. Geofilters are Snapchat filters that are only available around a specific geographical radius. Geofilters can be of two types — community geofilters and on-demand geofilters. Community Geofilters are filters created by artists and designers around a certain city, festivals, landmark, school, establishments, historic places, etc. On-demand Geofilters, however, are filters created specifically for an occasion, event (weddings, birthdays, etc.) or for a brand (advertisements).

A thorough discussion on the differences between filters and lenses have been covered in another post, so we shall not go into details here. However, for the integrity of this post, we shall refer to both Snapchat lenses and filters simply as ‘Filters’, unless otherwise mentioned.

How to Activate Snapchat Filters

By default, there are about 8 Snapchat filters that are available to you. These can be readily accessed without having to activate the Filters option in ‘Settings’. However, location based filters (called Geofilters) are only available after activating Filters settings.

In order to activate Snapchat Filters, follow the step below:

  1. Open Snapchat. Swipe down on the screen to open your profile screen.
  2. On your profile screen, tap on the little gear (screw) icon at the top right corner. This will take you to your Snapchat Settings.
  3. Scroll down on the Settings until you see Additional Services. Tap on Manage.
  4. Under Additional Services > Manage, toggle on Filters.

Alternatively, you can activate Filters on Snapchat directly by swiping left or right after you have taken a photo; swipe until you see a message that says ‘turn on filters’. This will take you directly to the Additional Services settings where you can activate Filters.

Geofilters require that you turn on location services on your phone. This is because Geofilters are only accessible around a specific geographical radius.

In order to turn on location services (if you haven’t done so) on your phone, here’s what to do:

iOS devices: Go to Settings (on your phone) > Privacy > Location Services > Snapchat, and select ‘While using the App’.


Android devices: Go to Settings (on your phone) > Location > Turn on.

The steps may be slightly different on different Android phones, but it basically has to do with enabling GPS (Location) on your phone.

Depending on your location, there will be different Filters (community geofilters and on-demand geofilters) accessible to you.

How to use Snapchat Filters

Using Snapchat Filters is easy. However, lenses are slightly different, so we’ll get to that later.

In order to use Snapchat Filters, here’s what to do:

  1. Activate Filters on your Snapchat Settings (as instructed earlier); turn on location services on your phone.
  2. Go to your Snapchat camera and take a photo.
  3. Swipe left or right to use Filters. Keep swiping to access different filters and Geofilters.
  4. TIP: To use more than one filter on a photo, hold/press down on the first filter with one hand and, with your other hand, keep swiping across the screen until you find the other filter you want to add. Then release the hand that holds the first filter.

Depending on your location and the time, you will be able to use different filters specific to that location and time. For instance, you will see Christmas filters during the holiday seasons, but not on Summer. Likewise, you will be able to use a London city filter when you’re in London, but not if you’re in Sydney.

If there’s a wedding party and someone has created a custom On-demand Geofilter specific for that party, you will be able to use that particular Wedding Filter when you’re around the area of the party, for a specific duration (the duration is set by the person who created the filter).

Geofilters can be very accurate as Snapchat uses data stored in your phone and in third-party services that you connect with Snapchat. It is able to accurately show you your device’s battery life, your name, birthday, etc.

Also, when your birthday comes, you will have a Birthday Snapchat Filter exclusive to you. This filter only shows when it’s your birthday. However, your friends will not be able to use this filter unless it’s their birthday too.

If you’re throwing a party and want to create a filter that all the party-goers can use, you can create a custom On-demand Geofilter.

How to use Snapchat Lenses (Special Effects)

While Filters and Geofilters can be used only after you have taken a snap, Lenses can be used prior to capturing a photo or video. Lenses add special effects to your snaps. The most common Snapchat lenses include Dog filter, Flower crown filter, face swap filter, etc.

To use Snapchat lenses, follow the steps below:

  1. Open Snapchat camera. Switch to the front camera.
  2. With the front camera open and your face on the screen, tap and hold down on the center of the screen until the app reads your facial features.
  3. When the app has scanned your face, small circles will appear on the screen. These small circles are lenses. how-to-use-snapchat-lenses
  4. Select any one of the lenses you want to use.
  5. Follow the on-screen instructions, if there’s any (like opening your mouth or raising your eyebrows).
  6. To take a picture with the lens filter, tap on the big circle (lens).
  7. To capture a video, press and hold on the circle for as long as you want to record the video.
  8. Remember: Voice changer lenses only work on videos. So while you’re recording the video, talk or sing. The lens will change your voice automatically after you have finished recording.

You can also add filters to the snaps that are taken with lenses.

Lenses are constantly updated, so a particular lens that you use may no longer be available in the next Snapchat update. However, the most popular lenses (dog filter, flower crown, face swap) have never been removed. Here are all the Snapchat lenses currently available.

I do not see any Geofilter

Geofilters are created both by users and Snapchat team. They are mostly built around a specific holiday, landmark, occasion or a brand. So, your location and the current date and time will have a huge influence on the type of Geofilters available to you.

If, however, you’re unable to see any Geofilter, these may be the reasons why:

  1. You have not enabled Filters on your Snapchat Settings. To do so, follow the instructions given earlier in this post.
  2. You have not turned on Location Services on your phone. To do so, follow the instructions given earlier.
  3. No one has created a Geofilter for your current Location.
  4. No one has created a Geofilter for your festival. There’s usually a community Geofilter during famous festivals.
  5. The Geofilters feature is still unavailable in your country.

Even if Geofilters isn’t available to you yet, you will still have access to all the default Snapchat filters and lenses though.

Also, you can always create a custom Geofilter if no one has created one for your location or festival. Happy Filters!

Joyful Thiek
Joyful Thiek

Joyful Thiek is a metals engineer who quit his job for the love of social media, SEO and God. He started SnappTips in 2014 as a blog that provides tips and how-to guides on mobile apps. Over the years, the blog has expanded to cover various other topics.

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