Austin-based artist Alie Jackson didn't have any coding or developer experience when she encountered Snapchat's free "Lens Studio" — a feature that allows users to create their own augmented reality filters.
"Lenses," as they're known on Snapchat, are like digital masks. They can overlay different shapes on a user's face as they look into their smartphone camera.
Jackson, a 32-year-old Austin native, began using the feature as a resident artist at the women-focused networking collective, Boss Babes. Jackson is a resident artist at the nonprofit.
RELATED: Boss Babes ATX provides a sassy new space for creative women in Austin
At a Boss Babes augmented reality pop-up show, Jackson created mixed-media collage style paintings. Attendees could unlock a Snapchat code to view her paintings through the AR lenses. (For the unfamiliar, augmented reality refers to technology that superimposes or overlays virtual objects on a real-world environment, such as with Nintendo’s Pokemon Go app.)
"I have a background as a digital designer and art director," Jackson said. "I've also been creating my own paintings and animation and illustration. I wanted to merge those two worlds."
Through her work on Lens Studio, Jackson applied to become a Snapchat "official lens creator" when the program began in May 2018.
Now, she's one of about 100 official lens creators who make custom augmented reality lenses for the app. Jackson is the only Austin-based official lens creator on Snapchat. Creators' lenses can be found on "lens explorer" within the Snapchat app or unlocked with the app's QR codes.
Lens creators like Jackson can make money by creating sponsored lenses. Ben Knutson, a former IT professional who quit his job to make Snapchat lenses full time, told CNN Business that other lens creators on the app charge a minimum of $1,000 for a sponsored lens. Some creators charge brands as much as $30,000 for more complex lenses, according to Knutson.
Snapchat partnered with Nike's Jordan brand to create lenses for NBA All-Star Weekend. Snapchat partnered with Nike and Jordan to host a lens studio workshop in North Carolina that featured Jackson and two other official lens creators who walked participants through the tool and showed off their own All Star Weekend lenses.
More than 500,000 lenses have been created through the Lens Studio and users have played them more than 15 billion times, according to the company. The number of Snapchat users submitting new lenses through the studio each month grew by more than 20% from the previous quarter.
Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, attributed its recent growth to the popularity of its lenses. Snap CFO said in an earnings call that the AR lenses resulted in 7 million to 9 million of the 13 million daily active users the app added during its second quarter of 2019.
Users who are interested in creating their own lenses can download Snapchat's lens studio AR creation tool. The Lens Studio website includes tutorials, templates and other tips to help a new creator.
Jackson said her work with Snapchat has helped her grow her brand and clients.
She's also used her work to teach students at the Austin School of Film through Snapchat's lens studio software.
"It's definitely helped as an artist for my own personal work and doing client work," she said.