What It Is and How to Use It

Social media app Snapchat is built around telling your story with pictures. Snapchat is also a handy tool to have if you want to send pictures to your friends and family without taking up more memory on your phone. Oddly enough, it’s surprisingly fun. Seriously. When we set out to write this short primer, we were pretty skeptical. When you’ve seen one video text, you’ve seen them all, right? Nope.

So, if you’d rather say everything with pictures, captions, short videos and more, check out our primer and get started today.

What is Snapchat?

Snapchat is a text-, photo- and video-messaging app that you use to send messages that will disappear one to ten seconds after your friend receives them. You determine how long the recipient(s) can view the message.

How to sign up for Snapchat

When you open the app for the first time, you will be prompted to create a user name and password, as well as enter your email and birthdate (the minimum age requirement is 13 years—check out our Snapchat tips for parents). After doing so, you’ll enter your phone number to receive a confirmation code. Snapchat will then access the contacts in your phone to show you which of your friends already use the app so that you can easily start sending messages by adding them to your Snapchat friends list.

How to use Snapchat

  • Open the app.
  • To send a photo to one of your friends in Snapchat, tap on the camera icon.
  • From there, you can take a picture (tap the circle to capture the shot) or record a video (press and hold the circle to capture a video).
  • Add captions to your visuals and select one or more recipients from your contacts list.
  • Snapchat also allows you to draw pictures or handwrite text on top of the photo. Just tap on the editing icon, choose your color and let your creative juices flow.
  • Determine how long you’d like the message to appear and send!
  • Wondering if your friends have viewed your visual masterpiece? Swipe left to see the status of your messages. If the shape next to your friend’s name is white, they’ve seen it. If not, the message still awaits them.
  • When you receive a message from one of your contacts, simply press and hold the message in your feed to see it—for a select amount of time only.

How to use effects and filters on Snapchat

The filter features in Snapchat are less straightforward than the rest of the app’s functions. First, navigate to the Settings and look for Additional Services. From there, you can turn on Filters (which requires that you allow Snapchat access to your GPS location and adds your current speed, temperature or time to the photo) or Visual Filters (Instagram-like filters). After you’ve turned the filters on, you can swipe left or right once you’ve captured an image to apply them.

Other settings include front-facing flash, Replay (you can choose to receive a replay for one Snapchat every day) and Special Text (larger font size for captions).

You can also change the number of “Best Friends” you have. Best Friends are the Snapchatters you chat with most frequently, decided by a “magical Snapchat friendship algorithm.”

What is Snapchat Stories?

Your Snapchat Story is essentially a group of images that you’ve captured and would like to share over the span of 24 hours. You choose who can access your Snapchat Story, whether it’s your friends only, a custom list or the public. Snapchat Stories live slightly longer than regular snaps, but after 24 hours they will self-destruct.

Snapchat messaging

One of the newer features of the Snapchat app is the ability to send text-only messages. Simply slide to your conversations on the left and swipe right on the name of the individual you want to chat with. From there, you can enter text and even opt to add a photo to that individual. Once you leave that screen, the messages you’ve both sent and received will disappear—much like the self-destructing photos and videos. Snapchat will also alert you if your friend is ‘Here in your Chat,’ so you’ll be able to instantly chat with one another.

Snapchat privacy settings

One of the biggest concerns on Snapchat is privacy. While you can rest assured that your images, messages and videos will self-destruct after the number of seconds you have chosen, there are other ways that you can ensure the level of privacy you want. Head to Settings and select the Who Can… option. From there, you control whether you want anyone or only your friends to be able to send you snaps, as well as decide who can view your Stories. Create a custom list of blocked users if there are particular individuals you do not want to see your Snapchat Story.

Snapchat Snapcash

In addition to snapping cool pictures to your friends, you can now send some sweet ‘Snapcash’ their way. Snapchat’s partnership with Square, a mobile payment service, means you’re able to send money from your bank account via the app to quickly repay debts or split a check.

To use this feature, link your debit card information to the app. Then, when you want to pay someone, simply type a dollar amount into a Snapchat text message to someone.