Considering how popular it’s become, it’s a wonder that we can keep track of each new addition and change that happens every time Snapchat gets an update. The social media app now has enough nuance and features to compete with practically any other app on the market, and one of the most fun that we’ve seen added recently is Snapchat lenses; let’s take a look at how to use your Snapchat lenses!
At its heart, Snapchat hasn’t changed at all in the many years that it’s been available on smartphone app stores. If you look at all of the ways it’s grown and expanded, however, it’s hard to find an app that has added more to its repertoire. The ease of access comes from its strong primary function: to provide a way for people to share images and videos that move at the same speed as we’re used to living at. Unlike other social media feeds that persist and have a searchable history, snaps begin to disappear as soon as you’ve first set eyes on them. Once chance is all you’ve got!
The main way that Snapchat users communicate with each other, of course, is “snaps.” These short-lived images and videos only carry a lifespan of seconds once they’ve been viewed by our fellow Snapchatters, after which they’re lost forever. It makes for a compelling, fast consumption of bright and vivid media, much of which carries intimate significance by the people sharing snaps. These aren’t just offhand pictures; they’re moments of life that deserve those few seconds. Others are simply hilarious or just outright interesting, but they’re all connected by their limited lifespan. Certain features like “Stories” have allowed users to extend that lifespan to 24 hours when snaps are tied together to form a day-long narrative while still more features have simply given users more ways to dress up their snaps.
This is where lenses fit in, and alongside Snapchat filters, they’re one of the most beloved additions that users are putting to work in their media. Rather than adjusting the color or tone of an entire image, they allow the app to scan the faces of anyone present in the image and apply unique effects based on what it finds.
What Are Snapchat Lenses?
Fitting in with the self-destructive nature of Snapchat’s snaps, the types of lenses that are available to users is always changing. The old are going out to make room for the new while the most popular lenses stick around to keep on enhancing users’ photos.
They work by interacting with peoples’ faces (selfies are prime real estate for sassy lenses!), in order to place differing effects on top of the images. Think googly eyes, aging filters, puking rainbows, and other effects that straddle the line between silly and serious, but always manage to be surprising. They’re available no matter what mobile OS you’re on, and perhaps the best part of Snapchat’s lenses? They’re free for you to use.
Snapchat lenses are also a lot smarter than most users know, at first! Since many of them benefit from specific facial expressions, you’ll occasionally have lenses that tell you to open your mouth, open your eyes, raise your eyebrows, and other facial gestures that will make the lenses apply better. For such a simple aesthetic feature that many users have yet to discover, it’s actually quite impressive.
How to Use a Snapchat Lens
Here’s another beautiful thing about Snapchat, and all of the features that it has added over the years: it’s simple to use. The app has banked on this simplicity, and I have no doubt that its booming growth in Snapchatters has to do with the lack of deep menus and complex settings for users to wade through.
Snapchat wants everyone to get on board with it, and so it keeps the interface straightforward enough that anybody can get into it. Much like filters and other markup effects that you can put to work on your snaps, lenses are only a few swipes away.
First things first: we’re starting off on the Snapchat main screen, which amounts to whatever your camera is seeing through its viewfinder. Before we can start playing with lenses, make sure that there are one or more faces in the viewfinder (preferably your own, if you’re still learning; let’s not make your friends puke rainbows just yet.)
Once you have a good view of a face, press and hold your finger on that face on your mobile device’s touchscreen. If done correctly, this will activate the lens feature, and allow you to swap between available lenses that you can apply to your image. Swipe left, swipe right, and you should soon be browsing between some fun effects that will each preview before you choose to apply them. It’s also this point that Snapchat is going to give you any necessary facial direction that will enhance a particular lens. If Snapchat tells you to make a face? Hop to it!
When you find a lens that suits your liking, all that you have to do is hit the capture button (your camera’s shutter button), and take the picture! Like any other snap, you’ll have a chance to dress it up any way you like you like using stickers, filters, text, and any other markup effects. This brings us to our next topic…
Can I Combine Snapchat Lenses with Other Effects?
Yes! Absolutely! A better question is, “Why haven’t you already?”
Like with any other snap, the full spread of additional cosmetic features is at your disposal. While lenses are shifting based on a naturally progressing timeline (more on this in a moment!), Snapchat’s filters will alter based on your current location. Photo filters and all of the various types of Geofilters can most definitely work with your chosen lens effects, and more so, different filters are going to be available depending on where you are (or upon the other features enabled on your mobile device.
You can actually end up with some very interesting combinations of effects if you swipe through the available filters, and your fellow Snapchatters might have a little bit of envy if you can take advantage of any Geofilters that are unique to your location.
Additionally, while lenses already possess tons of fun, colorful effects, you can use text and vibrant, drawn colors to make your snap pop! The only way to get better at combined Snapchat visual effects is to practice, so get that camera back on your face and get to work!
Can I Get Old Lenses Back?
Here’s a neat trick that some users have picked up on since lenses were added as a primary Snapchat feature. After some understandable frustration at lenses leaving the app before users have finished having fun with them, some have figured out a way to “trick” the Snapchat app into hanging on to lenses for longer than is originally intended.
It works by manipulating your mobile device’s displayed time, which can be a risky thing, so listen up!
Snapchat lenses have an expiration date as soon as they enter the app, and only the most popular ones stick around for an extended amount of time. (How long have you been our friend, face swap? Forever?) However, this expiration date is based on your mobile device’s set time. If you change it, you can resurrect recently lost lenses!
In order to play Dr. Frankenstein, you’re going to need to delve into your device’s settings. Whereas the time and date are normally automatically updated based on communications with your cellular and Wi-Fi networks, you can disable this automatic setting and change the time manually.
Beware: this can have extensive repercussions across all of the apps on your phone, many of which might also be dependent upon the time and date settings on your device. If you’re going to change it to get access to lenses, make sure to change it back immediately.
Sadly, this is the only spoke on the ever-turning wheel of Snapchat features that leads to some disappearing while other appear anew. This trick only works on lenses, so don’t expect it to bring back any filters or lost snaps–they vanish under entirely different circumstances.
Snapchat’s fantastic additions to its repertoire of interesting aesthetic features aren’t going to end anytime soon. Just like filters, the app’s lenses provide a never ending opportunity to add new effects that users both experienced and fresh to Snapchat can take advantage of with exceptional ease. It’s this ease that keeps the Snapchatters coming, and it’s these features–all built upon that foundation of time-sensitive image sharing–that continue to allow Snapchat to compete with the other social media giants.
We could see a new Snapchat lens at any time. Right now, puking rainbows have all but become a sensation that’s recognized even by people who don’t use the app, and you can hardly make it through a Facebook feed without seeing a few instance of face-swap hilarity. Though the above guide should definitely have shown you how to use Snapchat lenses to great effect, we’d love to hear about any other tricks and features that you’ve found. Share them in the comments below!