What are Snapchat Filters and Lenses?

Snapchat filters are layovers that you can add to your photos and videos for effect. Filters enable you to show off your location, speed, temperature, time or add color tones to your photos.

By default, you will have access to the following Snapchat filters:

Color Effects: You will have the option to choose from sepia, black and white and neon color tones.

Record Filter: Displays a frame and rec icon on top your snap.

Speed Filter: Displays the speed at which you’re travelling. You can change it to MPH or KMPH

Temperature Filter: Displays the current temperature of your location.

Location Filter: Displays your current location on your snap.

Time Filter: Displays the time the photo is taken. You can change the format of the time.

Besides the above, there are thousands of Snapchat filters that you can use depending on your location (these are called Geofilters). You can even create your own filters on Snapchat.

How to use Snapchat Filters

In order to start using Snapchat Filters, you have to enable the feature from your settings. To do this:

  1. Open Snapchat. Swipe down on your camera screen to access your profile screen.
  2. On the top right corner of your profile screen, you will see the Settings icon. Tap on it.
  3. Under Settings, tap on Manage Preferences
  4. Under Preferences, scroll down to Additional Services and enable Filters.

how to use snapchat filters

Note that you should enable location services for Snapchat on your device to use Geofilters.

Alternatively, you can activate Filters on Snapchat by swiping left or right after you have taken a photo; swipe until you see a message that says ‘turn on filters’. This will take you directly to the Additional Services settings.

By activating the Filters feature on Snapchat, you should now have access to location based filters called Geofilters.

Before we proceed further however, you need to know what Snapchat Lenses are.

Snapchat Lenses – a different kind of filters

Filters are often confused with lenses, so it’s imperative that we do away with this confusion before anything else.

Lenses are special effects that you can add to your photos and videos. The most common lenses include the wildly popular dog/puppy face filter, face swap, voice changer, flower crown, etc.

snapchat lenses

While lenses and filters are basically the same in that they both add special effects to your photos and videos, there are basic differences between these two features that we need to know.

Lenses can change the appearance of your face, even the sound of your voice; Filters can not. Filters can only add layovers (messages, color tones, customized images and icons) to your snaps.

You can only use Filters after you have taken a snap (photo or video) from your Snapchat camera. On the other hand, you can use Lenses only before taking a snap.

To use Snapchat Lenses,

  1. Go to your camera screen.
  2. Switch to your front camera (selfie camera).
  3. Tap on the center of your screen and hold until Snapchat recognizes your facial features. Lenses are activated by reading your facial features.
  4. Small circles (lenses) will appear at the bottom of your camera screen to indicate that Lenses have been activated.

Most first-time users do not know the difference between filters and lenses, understandably so because both of these features are used for adding effects to snaps. The dog face lens is often called the dog filter and the flower crown lens called flower filter, and so on.

So to avoid any confusion, we’ll be using both these terms (Lenses and Filters) interchangeably. The use of the word ‘Filter’ to denote Lenses should not go under criticism.

Geofilters – location based Snapchat Filters

Geofilters are special overlays created by users from and for a specific geographical location. Geofilters are accessible only within a specified radius of the geographic location for which it is built.

There are thousands of Geofilters all over the world; but all of these are specific to the particular location they are made for. For instance, you will have access to a ‘London’ Geofilter when you’re in London, but the same filter will not be available to you if you’re in Sydney.

The most common Geofilters include City name, Site name, School, Landmarks, etc.

If you’re unable to use Geofilters, these may be why:

  1. Geofilters is currently unavailable in your country. This feature is not yet available in all countries and cities.
  2. No one has made a Geofilter for your current location.
  3. You have not enabled Filters from your Snapchat settings. To do this, go to Settings > Manage Preferences > Additional Services and enable Filters by toggling on the button.
  4. You have not enabled location services for Snapchat on your phone. To enable location services for Snapchat on your device, follow the instructions below:

    iOS devices: Go to Settings (on your phone) > Privacy > Location Services > Snapchat, and select ‘While using the App’.

    Android devices: Go to Settings (on your phone) > Location > Turn on.

To see which filters are available to you, swipe left or right across your screen after you have taken a photo.

Geofilters can be wildly accurate because Snapchat uses information from your device and other third-party services. It may sometimes include your name, your device’s battery life or even your birthday. These are information that are readily available on your device. Do not be alarmed if you see such custom filters.

snapchat lenses

There are two types of Geofilters — Community Geofilters and On-Demand Geofilters.

Community Geofilters

Community Geofilters are custom filters created by artists and designers for use in and around landmarks, schools, neighborhoods and cities.

Community Geofilters are free to create (they need to be approved by Snapchat) and free to use. To access Community Geofilters, simply take a picture on your Snapchat camera and swipe left or right. Swipe more to access more filters.

On-Demand Geofilters

On-Demand Geofilters are custom filters that are created for a specific purpose or event, including birthdays, weddings, etc. These filters are time-bound, location-bound and cost upwards of $5 to create.

On-Demand Snapchat Geofilters can be personal (those created for personal events and occasions) and business (created by brands for identity and advertisement).

These filters also need to be approved by Snapchat before they can be used.

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