Lensa’s AI-Generated Photos Are Taking Social Media by Storm

Lensa’s newest feature, Magic Avatars, uses an advanced AI model to generate artistic versions of users’ selfies.

Written by Ashley Bowden
Published on Dec. 08, 2022
Lensa’s AI-Generated Photos Are Taking Social Media by Storm
An AI-generated image of Prisma Labs CEO and co-founder Andrey Usoltsev. | Image: Prisma Labs

Odds are social media-savvy folks on Instagram, Twitter and the like have seen artsy-looking portraits of the people they follow flooding their feeds. The secret behind these digital images that seem to exist somewhere between the realms of photography and oil paintings is none other than Prisma Labs and its newly-updated mobile app Lensa.


What Is Prisma Labs?

Sunnyvale, California-based Prisma Labs is a software developer specializing in mobile technology powered by deep learning. The company was co-founded by Oleg Poyaganov, Ilya Frolov, Andrey Usoltsev and Alexey Moiseenkov in 2016, and it evolved around its flagship app Prisma. In 2018, Moiseenkov departed from Prisma Labs in favor of pursuing other ventures. After he resigned as CEO, Usoltsev took up the mantle.

“Our goal is to move forward mobile photography and video creation to the next level using neural networks, deep learning and computer vision technics. We aim to create new ways for people to express their emotions through the camera,” Prisma Labs wrote on its LinkedIn profile.

While the company is incorporated in the U.S., much of its 85-person team is based in Cyprus. 

The company has two live apps under its belt — Prisma, which launched in June 2016, and Lensa. The latter hit Google Play and the App Store back in 2018. Both are currently available for download on Android and iOS devices.


What’s the Difference Between Prisma and Lensa?

Prisma Labs’ namesake app uses artificial intelligence to rerender a user’s uploaded image. With Prisma, a user can upload any photo — from a selfie to a landscape shot — and transform it into what looks like a painted representation. Prisma’s photo editing app offers a library containing hundreds of filters and effects to make someone’s photo look like art painted by the likes of Picasso, Munch or Salvador Dalí, according to the app’s Google Play description. The Prisma app has been downloaded more than 120 million times and processed over 4.5 billion images in 2022, according to the company.

The company’s newer creation, Lensa, is powering a resurgence in Prisma Labs’ popularity. Lensa takes photo editing a step further. From eyebrow shaping and background customization to removing blemishes and changing one’s hair color, Lensa incorporates tools for touching up selfies. 

While these features characterized Lensa’s debut four years ago, a new feature called Magic Avatars has brought the app back into the spotlight. Combining aspects of both Lensa and Prisma, this new feature elevates selfies to an entirely different plane with the power of AI. Lensa has already been installed by 17.5 million users since the launch of Magic Avatars, Prisma Labs told Built In via email.

three variations of Lensa AI avatars
AI-generated images through Lensa’s new feature called Magic Avatars. | Images: Lensa


Magic Avatars or AI-Generated Photos

Lensa’s Magic Avatars were introduced to the app in November. The platform uses Stable Diffusion, an open-source, deep learning AI model by Stability AI, to transform photos of people into artistically stylized images. Going beyond a filter or a photo effect, Magic Avatars are AI-generated renderings of users based on the visual blueprints they provide.

Stable Diffusion’s neural network was originally trained to create images based on text prompts. The model can recognize a user and recreate their face from scratch in 20 different styles developed by the Prisma Labs team.

To get their avatars, users upload 10 to 20 close-up selfies for AI to get an accurate read on their appearance. After the model processes the images, they’re deleted from the app’s servers, as reported in a recent CNBC article. The next step is for the person to select their gender.

Afterward, users are prompted to pay for their new collection of images. Lensa offers 10 different style variations for users to choose from, such as fantasy, fairy princess, focus, pop, stylish, anime, light, kawaii, iridescent and cosmic. Packages of 50, 100 and 200 avatars in each of these styles are priced at $3.99, $5.99 and $7.99, respectively.

The app has processed 431 million avatars to date with 90 percent of users saving or sharing their images, according to Prisma Labs.

“Prisma Labs’ team had been on a mission to defy trends and develop a product beyond yet another photo-editing feature for a number of years before the successful release of Magic Avatars last month,” a company representative told Built In via email. “Magic Avatars’ experience is a personal one. It is meant to invite one to exercise imagination, encounter various unconventional interpretations of oneself and choose the ones that resonate with oneself the most. The end result is always unique, ingenious, and always very human.”


Working at Prisma Labs

Following the user growth the company has achieved with its latest creation, Prisma Labs is furthering its momentum with more plans to innovate the digital art space.

“At Prisma Labs, we are developing a universe of creativity with our feature product Lensa winning the hearts of millions of digital creators,” the company wrote on its website. “Our remote team is spread across the globe and comes together to make a spectacular product that is changing the photo and video arena.”

The company is currently growing its team to fuel this modernization. Several open roles are listed on its careers page spanning its development and product teams.

Editor’s note: This article was updated on Dec. 12 to include additional information from Prisma Labs.

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