So you have received a Snapchat from your niece, and it self-destructs a few seconds after you view it. What the heck is this all about? Maybe you want to keep that silly photo, maybe print it out and put it in one of your stacks of photo albums that sit in the closet. The point is most kids doesn’t want you to do that and that’s pretty much why Snapchat became so popular.

Yet, the average age of Snapchat user is steadily going up - it’s no longer just for teens and or for sexting when in college. Up to 31% of adults (aged between 25-34) are using it too. Maybe those are even your friends, raving about some cool nonsense they have just seen there.

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So how about learning to use Snapchat and capture momentary silliness yourself? I recently decided to give it a try and show some of my cousins that I am not that “last century” out-of-touch person all of the time.

If you want to join the party, here is a quick guide for you.

Your Starter Guide to Snapchat

Above all, Snapchat is a messaging app. You can take a photo or short video and then add a caption; you can doodle on it; you can add custom snapchat filters; and then you can send the finished product to specific friends or even post on Facebook for all to see for a few seconds. It’s all kind of fun.

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But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – we need to move a bit slowly here, so you hang in there, older person :)

The Home Screen Features

As a beginner, here is what you need to know. At the top left corner is you flash option. At the top right is a button to put the lens toward you or away from you. On the bottom of the screen is a button you will use to take pictures or videos.

  • To take a picture, push the button
  • To take a video, push and hold the button

If there are any snaps from friends the number will show on the bottom left. You can just tap it to access them. The bottom right corner of the screen is for “stories.” This may be getting a bit much right now, so we’ll leave it at that – don’t use that button right now. You are still a newbie.

You can also tap the ghost in the top middle and see who your Snapchat friends are and add new ones if you want – just like you do on Facebook.

Creating a Snap

OK. Now we’re into the meat of this thing – how you actually make a snap and send it out to someone.

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So, here you are on the main screen. Take your picture or video by pushing that bottom we talked about above.

Once you do that, you’ll get a preview screen of the picture, and this is where the fun begins. You have options:

  • At the top of the screen, you’ll see an option to add stickers or emojis. You can also top the “T” button and add text
  • There will also be a pencil button that lets you doodle and choose a color. Use our finger, select a color and then begin drawing or writing right on the picture.

Now about those filters. There are some built in to the app. Slide left or right and choose any you want, such as location, telling viewers where you are. (Actually, this geolocation filter has parents a bit worried, and probably for good reason. They need to read up on this filter). Anyway, choose any filters you want, and add them.

Ready to Send?

Before you send it out, tap the bottom left of the preview screen (the little circle with a number in it. This lets you choose for how long a view can see it – 1-10 seconds).

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Now tap the arrow icon on the bottom right – it will open up a “send-to” screen. Select your recipients, and then tap the arrow. One of those recipients will be “My Story.” We’ll talk about that later.

How to View Snapchats From Others

Pretty simple here. On the main screen, remember that lower left corner button – the square with a number in it? Just tap on it and up will pop the snaps you have sent and any snap replies that have come in from others. Tap on the ones you want to view.

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Remember time is limited. If you want to save it, be ready to take a screenshot of it. You’ll also be informed of whether your snaps have been viewed – there will be arrows, etc. that indicate this, but it does get a little more complicated. You can check out what all of these things mean at Snapchat support, once you are beyond the newbie status.

Now About Those Filters

As I mentioned, there are some basic filters built into Snapchat, and there is the ability to add color and doodle on your snaps. But you may want to do more eventually.

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Really advanced Snapchat users often design their own filters, but this is for another day.

What you can do is this: suppose you have special events coming up – a birthday, wedding, major vaca, etc. You can use a service that will help you design custom snapchat filters at a minimal cost.

Just remember, they have to be submitted to Snapchat in advance for approval before they will be added to your screen options. (They do have some standards, after all). Once your filter is added, you can use it for any photo or video you create – pretty cool, actually.

How Did They Do That? (The Story of Lenses)

Image by Tech Advisor

You’ve seen snaps of some kids with their faces all distorted? This is done by applying a lens to a snap, and it’s easy to do.

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Using the camera screen, press your finger on your face (on the screen, of course), to active the Lenses feature. It has facial recognition built in that can distort your face or expression or apply other effects.

Once you tap to start it, you’ll get a spider web-type thingie that covers your face. Then, options will be provided. Select any one of the options and then just follow the instructions. They’re pretty clear. You can play around with options until you like what you have created. Just swipe to the left to change lens options.

Ready to Make a Story?

This really is your next step, so fasten that seatbelt and let’s get started. Actually, the seat belt can be loose, because this is simple).

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A story is a snap that will last for 24 hours. And it can be sent out to all of your Snapchat followers. Here goes:

  • Tap the story icon on the camera screen (it sits next to the “download” icon).
  • You can add snaps to your “story” – let’s say a bunch from a wedding or you at one of those line dancing events that will totally embarrass you later.
  • Once you have your story, tap the send arrow, and it will go out to all of your following.

Here’s the other cool thing about the “My Story” icon. If you take a snap and you want to send it to everyone, just to that “my story” icon and the send arrow. You don’t have to select recipients manually. (Unless, of course, you don’t want a grandkid seeing you line dancing).

You can also view stories that others have sent by tapping on the story icon.

More Features Keep Adding Up

You can now do a lot of other things with Snapchat, because, after all, it is competing with some other big boys of social media. As you get more expert, you can do such things as:

  • Access Discover – gives you original stuff from publishers. Companies are using this a lot now to market to teens who are really into Snapchat.
  • If you’re into your ego, you can access your “scores” – how many views you have had
  • You can chat with friends, even call have video conversations
  • And when your college id makes a plea for money, you can even send it via Snapchat.
  • You can use the Memories function to save your snaps – sort of like your own photo album – because you can share them with others later on.
  • And now you can even buy Snapchat spectacles, put them on and take snaps and videos that will automatically save to your Memories. Will wonders never cease?

Remember when you first learned how to use your smartphone? Or play the piano? It took practice. It’s the same thing with Snapchat – you have to just get on there and do it. Your phone or tablet is not going to blow up if you goof at first :) 

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