I’m a little late to the party, in that I only tried out Snapchat recently. I had trouble seeing how an app that destroyed images after only a few seconds was something I needed in my life. I finally decided to give it a go though, and realized I had been missing out on a great social photo app for a long time.
Snapchat works like pretty much any iOS camera app you’re used to using, except all the images you create and send with Snapchat delete themselves after they’ve been viewed. That’s actually — go with me on this — pretty neat. I’ll run through what makes Snapchat such a great find and what sets it apart from the herd.
Take a Snap to Chat
Tap the button in the center of the Snapchat window at the bottom to grab your shot, or hold the button to create a short video. That little icon in the lower left that looks like a box will display a list of all of the snaps you’ve sent and received. If you have anything new, you’ll get a little notification on that box. The camera icon gets you back to the Snapchat camera, and from there you can see all of your friends by tapping the menu icon in the lower right. Tap the Add icon up top to search for friends already using Snapchat or to invite your contacts.
Once you’ve got your picture or video and have a pretty good idea to whom you want to send your masterpiece, you’ll need to know your next move. I’m pretty much in love with Snapchat, but I’m the first to admit, it’s not obvious what all of its icons are supposed to do. If you’re looking at its bare interface and wondering, “What next?” don’t worry, because I can help.
In the lower left you’ll find an icon that sort of, maybe, almost looks like an analog clock. Maybe. Tap that to set the lifespan of your image — how long it lasts until it self-destructs. Next over is the Download icon. That may seem superfluous in an app like Snapchat, a destination for images you don’t really mean to keep, but if you just created something so awesome you can’t let it go, it’s nice to have the option to save your masterpiece. Finally, the blinking arrow sends your image. In the next screen you’ll choose your recipients and confirm that you’re really okay with sending your little portrait along.
A Picture Worth 1,000 Words
You’ve got stuff to say. I know you do. That’s why you have three Tumblr blogs and a LiveJournal for your Apple Genius Bar fanfic. That’s not enough, though. You need to send a message with your pictures, too. Snapchat doesn’t exactly let you do that — there’s no messaging feature — but there are some pretty great captions. Tap anywhere on your image to bring up the keyboard. You only get one line of text, so keep it pithy.
If that’s not your bag, I feel you. A black line with white text doesn’t really have the pizazz I’m looking for, either. Tap the pencil up top to start drawing on your image instead. Drag up and down the color spectrum until you land in the right spot, and you can change colors as many times as you want while editing your image. Write out text or draw pictures on your image — do whatever you want. There’s an undo icon to save you if you make a wrong move, and the pencil tool can be twitchy, so it’s not hard to turn a work of art into something pretty funky with a single finger swipe.
Why Am I Using This, Again?
I’ve been asked why anyone would use Snapchat. What’s the point? A lot of people assume it’s just for sending naughty pics and nothing else. Okay, sure, you can use it like that, and that’s your business. Just remember that though your picture may delete itself in three seconds, a screenshot of your snap lasts a lot longer and can easily end up on Facebook, so that’s going to be on you. You make that call.
I like to use Snapchat as a way to send dumb pictures to my friends that I don’t want them to feel obliged to hang onto. The pictures I send aren’t anything I’d be embarrassed of if they were passed around, but they’re just not anything worth keeping. I’m mostly sending pictures of my new shoes, whatever I’m watching with a funny caption included, or my cat saying goodnight. The images are meaningful to my friends in the moment, especially those who live far away and wish they were watching TV with me or could say goodnight to my cat in person, but it’s nothing anyone needs to keep for the long term. Even if I just sent those images using Messages or another instant messaging app, that data is getting downloaded and stored somewhere on my friends’ phones. This way, they get to share a moment with me, maybe respond, and then get that bit of storage back when the moment is over.
The other, maybe less obvious, use for Snapchat is as a way to draw on your pictures. No one’s going to use Snapchat to annotate images, because there are lots of better apps for that and they look a lot less goofy. It’s that goofiness that makes Snapchat such a great app for giving your pictures an extra bit of personality. Choose from unlimited colors and draw any silly, crazy, funny, heart-warming or sweet thing you want. There’s no way to load an image into Snapchat, so I often find myself snapping pics of all sorts of things, downloading them after I take a turn with the Sanpchat pencil tool, and then never sending the picture to anyone — at least not through Snapchat. They end up on Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter, because there’s a certain charm to a Snapchat drawing.
I love Snapchat. I’m on board. I’ll come clean and admit that most of my friends on Snapchat are teenagers I met when I was a high school librarian, and I’m not unaware that I may be one of the few adults in the room. That said, it’s a lot of fun. Nothing cheers me up in the middle of a humdrum day more than a snap of a friend mugging for the camera. Sure they could have texted me to say they were thinking about me, but then I wouldn’t have gotten to see a friendly face.
Since I’ve been using Snapchat, it’s rare that a picture going to Facebook or Instagram doesn’t get the Snapchat treatment first. It’s not enough that my cat is lolling in a patch of sun. I have to also give him a tutu, ballet slippers and maybe the suggestion of a tiny orchestra before his picture is fit for Twitter. Snapchat has changed the way I think about sharing pictures, and it has definitely earned a place on my home screen.
Share just a moment and send self-deleting pictures to your friends, with captions and fun drawings.9
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