Tips to make Google Earth appear more realistic

Over the years, the realism of Google Earth has improved quite a lot and there are things you can do to make it more realistic.

3D Imagery
The first one is pretty easy; simply by enabling the 3D buildings (powered by the auto-generated 3D imagery), you’re off to a great start. While the 3D imagery can look pretty bad from low altitudes, it looks stunning when flying over a city.

Photorealistic atmosphere
The big key to making Google Earth look awesome is to enable the photorealistic atmosphere, along with the “sun” and “water surface” features. By doing the above, you can end up with a scene similar to this:

photorealistic atmosphere

These features can be quite resource intensive for your computer, so most people can’t leave them enabled all of the time, but they can have an amazing impact on the realism of Google Earth.

If you’d like to take it a bit further, this article on anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering will help you understand some of those features a little more as well.

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. RVerhoeff says:

    This is all very well and good if you so happen to be one of the minuscule proportion of earth’s total population living in America….. Because of the fact that Google is shamelessly America-centric, the most critically important feature (the 3d imagery) is almost excusive to American cities with the exception of one or two random cities for every other country that they deem vaguely important. I was one a modeller for my city but have been outmoded due to the 3d imagery feature that hasn’t even been implemented anywhere in my state and based on the current quantity of 3d imagery in Australia, it will be a LOOOOOOOOONG time before anything comes of it. If you are like me and make up the 90% or so of the worlds population that lives outside the USA, then you can at best play around with the atmospheric feature over a disgracefully poor looking earth.

  2. An American country emphasizing American geography. The nerve!

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