How to Make Snapchat Stories That Don't Suck

Man snapchatting by graffiti
Cole Saladino/Thrillist
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

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Snapchat is a fantastic app for sending dumb selfies and doodled masterpieces straight to your friends, but that's only a fraction of the fun. By now you're surely familiar with "Stories" -- photo/video tales full of oversized emojis, hand-selected soundtracks, and hilarious captions. There's just one problem: most people make pretty shitty Snapchat Stories.

Behold, our comprehensive guide to making a good Snapchat Story. Keep these tips in mind next time you're snapping, and you'll wind up with a Snapchat masterpiece (Snapsterpiece?) -- or, at the very least, an intelligible, not-totally-boring Story that people actually want to watch. Let's begin.


snapchatting on iphone with friends

Don't put direct snaps on your Story, or vice versa

When you take a snap, you'll have the choice to either blast it out to one/several friends (a direct snap) or add it to your Story. For the love of God, pick one or the other, but never both. Many snappers just reflexively add all their direct snaps to their stories, not realizing that both are being viewed by essentially the same people. This is basically spamming, and the redundancy tends to turn people off. Pretty soon, they'll just start ignoring all your snaps. Which, like, can you blame 'em? Be judicious!

gif of pouring beer on iPhone

Always have a subject or theme

As you probably learned even before you could read, good stories have plots. Your Snapchat Story should be about something, even if it's as simple as making a sandwich. Some of my favorite subjects include my morning commute, traveling, and drinking (your mileage may vary). But without a plot, your Snapchat Story will be nothing more than a fragmented assembly of random-ass moments in your day.

Set short timers...

Any narrative needs pace, but on Snapchat, the flow of your story is absolutely critical. So keep it moving! On videos, try to break up longer shots into two smaller ones. With photos, I never set my timers over five seconds. By keeping your cuts short, you'll keep your stories moving.

Seriously, just keep it short

People that are semi-new to Snapchat have a tendency to build long Stories. This is partially because they don't keep an eye on their timer, but it's also because they don't realize that their lives are mostly boring, and viewers' attention spans are fleeting.

Now, I know this sounds harsh, but it's also the truth. I mean, no one really cares about anything anymore, least of all your 437-second Snap Story featuring 95 identical pan shots of the Taylor Swift concert you spent $400 to be at. No matter how insane, exciting, or otherwise interesting you believe your life to be, it probably won't appear that way on your Snapchat.

So save the humble brags for Facebook and keep those Stories concise, people. Your viewers shouldn't have to burn more than a minute or two of their day to watch them.

man using snapchat on iphone in the street
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Change up your angles

Avoid shooting everything from the same perspective. If you just shot a monologue while holding your phone above your head in your right hand, maybe switch hands, or put the phone below you and look down at it for the next shot. Whatever you do, don't repeat shots too often. This will keep your Story visually interesting.

Look at the camera when you're talking

It's a natural tendency to look at your screen when you're shooting in selfie mode, because you want to see a) if you look good, and b) if the photo or video is properly framed. But if you're speaking into the camera during your story, and you're not looking directly into its lens, it can be disorienting to your viewers, because your eyes are constantly tilted slightly away from them.

Snapchat man with music emoji

Give yourself a soundtrack

Let's say you're shooting video of someone biting into a delicious cheeseburger. That's a great shot. But there's no unique sound associated to it (besides maybe the sound of chewing, which is gross), so set it to your favorite song to make it more compelling. There's an explanation on how to do that in this article.

Use emojis as props

You already know how to include emojis in the text you type on the screen. Hopefully, you also know about the whole other emoji layer available to you: the one you get when you click that little folded-paper icon next to the "T" in the upper-right corner of your screen. Between these two tools, you can pretty much always find ways to work oversized emojis into your Stories in enriching, photo-realistic ways.

Don't be afraid to reshoot stuff

Snapchat Stories look and feel live, but they're not -- you can review your shot before uploading it. If it looks bad, take it again! There's no harm in getting the shot you want. (Note: Only do this by yourself, not if it means burdening your friends with incessant requests to "say that again." They will hate you.)

Man on Snapchat with emoji and text

Closure: your new best friend

In comic-book writing, "closure" is the technique of implying complex plot developments without actually showing them. In Snapchat, it's the technique of showing your viewers the lead-up before, and the results after, with none of the boring crap in the middle.

Let's say you're doing a Story about your trip from NYC to Boston, and it starts with a five-hour train ride. You might snap yourself boarding at Penn Station and deboarding in Back Bay, with a video of scenery passing by a moving train window between those two events. This way, viewers can infer that you've traveled to Boston, without having to actually watch you do so.

When it's over, say goodbye

When you upload Stories to Snapchat, each "piece" is added chronologically to the end, and each has its own 24-hour countdown timer. So depending on when someone watches your Story, they may not see the whole thing. So tell your viewers when one Story ends and another begins by using simple title cards, like the one above.

snapcode THRILLIST snapchat

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Dave Infante is Thrillist's senior Snapchat editor. Follow @dinfontay on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.