Snapchat’s “Lenses” feature can make all kinds of silly alterations to your Snaps. If you’ve ever seen a photo of a friend with cute, cartoon-esque dog ears or “face-swapping” with someone else, it was a Snapchat Lens.

RELATED: What Is Snapchat?

Snapchat’s interface can be a little confusing, so if you aren’t sure how to use these lenses, we’re here to help.

Each Lens has a different effect that’s automatically applied in real time to your photos. They generally shift, change, or add something to your face. Some lenses exaggerate the size of your nose while others turn you into different animals.

At any one time, there are between about ten and fifteen different lenses available in Snapchat. New Lenses are constantly being added and old ones removed and then brought back. Theme lenses are often added for special events and companies can pay Snapchat to have a lens included to promote their product.

RELATED: How to Use Snapchat: The Basics of Sending Snaps and Messages

Despite being one of the best things about Snapchat, Lenses are hidden behind a touch gesture. While almost everything else in Snapchat’s interface is handled by buttons, there isn’t one for Lenses.

To apply a Lens to your image, open Snapchat. Many of the lenses require a face in the photo, so it’s simplest to use the front-facing camera.

Before you take a Snap, tap on your face. Snapchat will apply its face-detection algorithms. Assuming it detects your face, Snapchat will bring up the Lenses for you to choose from. In low light or from odd angles, it may take Snapchat a while to recognize you as a person. It can also make hilarious mistakes and recognise everyday objects or photos as people.

Swipe through the circular icons to browse through all the lenses available. Tap a circle to apply it.


Some of the lenses, like the face-swap one, require two people in the photo. Others will also change your voice or add music. There’s very little consistency between Lenses, and Snapchat is always adding more that do new things.


Once you’ve found the Lens you want to use, take a Snap as normal. All the Lenses work as either photos or videos. Then you can edit your Snap, send it to your friends or add it to your Story.

Profile Photo for Harry Guinness Harry Guinness
Harry Guinness is a photography expert and writer with nearly a decade of experience. His work has been published in newspapers like The New York Times and on a variety of other websites, from Lifehacker to Popular Science and Medium's OneZero.
Read Full Bio »