Mastering Snapchat Is Actually Easy, Here’s How


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So you downloaded Snapchat. Problem is, you don’t know what the hell to do with it. It kind of scares you, actually. But you’ve made up your mind and there’s no going back. You are going to conquer your fears. You are going to become not-bad at Snapchat. 

And I am going to guide you. Here are 17 tips, tricks, and techniques to help Snapchat newcomers get the most out of this crazy new app all the cool teens are using.

But first, check for updates

As a relatively young platform, Snapchat is constantly smoothing out bugs and adding new features. Always make sure you're using the most up-to-date version of the software. If you're not, hit up your app store and download the latest update.

Like, right now. Go ahead, I'll wait. All set? Cool. Onward!


Add your friends, DON'T import your contacts

Friends are great, aren't they? You'll probably be snapping to them the most. To find them, you can have Snapchat scan your contacts and match phone numbers to handles already in their system... or, you can input your friends' usernames manually.

The latter method takes a little more effort, but you should absolutely do it. Otherwise you'll be getting a ton of snaps from people you don't actually care about. You can make your experience even more private by going to settings and changing "Who Can Send Me Snaps" from "Everyone" to "My Friends."


Don't forget the basic rules of photography

There's no big secret snapping strategy -- just take photos and videos on Snapchat like you would on any camera. You have Instagram, right? Same rules apply: avoid shooting into direct sunlight, ensure that your subject is properly framed, and keep the lens and microphone unobstructed.


Use Wi-Fi...

Be warned: Snapchat eats a lot of data. A lot. If you have unlimited data, this may not mean much to you, but for the rest of us peasants who don't, it's a death knell. Avoid overages and do as much snapping as possible while connected to Wi-Fi.

Or Airplane Mode...

Beyond Wi-Fi's clement embrace, you can set your phone to Airplane Mode, and upload your snaps as you normally would. Your photos and videos will queue up for you to re-upload once you find Internet (just tap the error icon again to resend!).

And Travel Mode!

In the Settings menu (Profile > Settings > Manage Additional Services) is a toggle for Travel Mode. Turn it on, and Snapchat won't automatically load stories and snaps, which will save you data. (Just tap to load it, ideally once you're on Wi-Fi.)


Paint first, add text last

Use the painting function before you start adding words and emojis, because those will appear over your drawing. If you're hardcore, you can also grab a stylus, which helps your paint game immensely. I use these, but pretty much any compatible pen should work. Android users may have styli already, and are nerds. 

Make text bigger or smaller

Type something, tap the "T" tile in the upper right of your screen (tap once for left-aligned text, twice for center-aligned), then use a pinching motion with your fingers to make the words bigger or smaller.


Adjust emoji sizes independent of your text

See that freakin' awesome oceanic emoji mosaic up there? You can make one too! Emojis can be typed and resized independent of text, by using that folded-paper-square icon in the corner. Resize them to your liking using the same pinch method.

Change your text colors

You can manipulate the color of every letter of text on your screen. Just type something, then tap it again to pull up the sliding color spectrum. If you want to change the color of just a couple words, highlight them with your cursor, then slide the spectrum to your desired hue.

Unlock the "secret" colors!

Let's say you want to draw some black and white cookies, because duh, they're delicious. You're going to need black and white paint colors. If you're using an Android, you already have them. Congratulations, nerd. But if you're using an iPhone, they're nowhere to be found on the paint spectrum. Except... they're there.

Hold your drawing finger on the color bar in the top right corner and drag it directly to the left of your screen without breaking contact. See the shade get whiter and whiter? Boom. Do the same thing, but to the bottom of your screen, to use black. Use the same method to get lighter and darker shades.


Add music to your videos

You can soundtrack your video snaps by playing tunes from your preferred music app in the background while you shoot. Snapchat pushed an update that allows audio to play behind it (most apps pause your music when you open them) so your microphone will pick up high-quality sound on whatever track you're playing.


Turn on your filters

Snapchat has built in a bunch of little on-screen features that can add context and humor to your snaps. To use them, go to your Settings, find the part that says Additional Services, and tap Manage. Switch the toggle menu to "on" and you should be all set. Take a photo or video, then swipe in either direction to pull up the local time, temperature, and maybe even a geofilter or two. Which brings us to...


Look for geofilters

Pretty much every major city and university in the US has its own customized graphic you can swipe onto the screen. This is great for bragging about the vacation you're on, or how #blessed you feel to have such an adorable hometown. Some of them are pretty slick.

Add tints or black/white

There are three color balances (plus the default) in which you can display your snaps. One is super-warm (think Valencia on Instagram); the next is very cold and has almost a blue-ish hue; the third is black and white. You can access them consecutively by swiping.


Do both at the same time!

Pull up a geofilter or the time/temp, then hold your index finger down on that part of the screen. Now swipe with your other index finger. You'll be able to pull up the color filters, while keeping the first filter on-screen.

Dave Infante/Thrillist

Use the new "lenses" (but please, not too much)

If you're rocking the most recent version of the app -- and you should be, because what did I tell you at the beginning of this story?! -- you also have access to lenses.

Set your camera to selfie mode and hold your finger down on the approximate part of the screen where your face is displayed. (This is a little janky, so you may have to try a few different places, but the sweet spot is in the middle-ish.)

If you did it right, you should see a row of cartoon-face circles stretch horizontally across your screen. These are your lenses. Some will make your eyes look big and creepy, while others offer little animations activated when you raise your eyebrows or open your mouth.

They're passingly amusing, but they get old to receive, so please. Use responsibly.

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Dave Infante is a senior writer for Thrillist. Follow DINFONTAY on Snapchat for more of this (or on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, too).