Adding Images to a Google Earth Placemark

Adding media – images, audio, video, and more – to the markers you create for layers in Google Earth is not hard at all, and has become even easier with recent updates to the software.

This page will give you the basics of adding images. Using audio, video and other media is covered in another tutorial. On both pages I also address a little about the copyright implications of linking to web-based media.

When you add an image to a Google Earth marker, you have three options, the two shown here and one other that’s a little more complex.

images options in place marker

Add local image

You can upload any image in the .jpg, .png, or.gif format directly from your desktop or from any other drive you can access. However, there are a few issues to consider before starting.

The image will be packaged with the layer you save from Google Earth (a KMZ file). Images, especially large ones, could greatly increase the size of this file and make it difficult to share.

In addition, the size of the image could make it difficult to view. While you could change the HTML code to resize your picture (see the section below), it’s best for both file size and viewing if you resize the image before adding it to your marker.

Something else to think about is copyright. Adding an image by linking to where it is stored on the web is generally considered fair use (see the discussion below). Downloading the image and storing it in a Google Earth file may not be.

Anyway, if you have prepared your image, click on the Add local image button, locate your image, and click Open or Upload (depending on your computer). You will see some HTML code similar to this added to the edit section of your marker.

<img style=”max-width:500px;” src=”file:///Users/john/Desktop/IMG_0822.JPG”>

Notice that this code points to the image on your computer (and the code will be different on a computer running Windows). That means if you move this image before the file is complete and saved, it will not display in the marker.

The best practice is to add all your local images at one time near the end of your project (I recommend storing them all in one folder), and then save the final KMZ file. Or immediately save the KMZ file, close Earth, and reopen the KMZ file for editing.

Add web images

For this option you’ll first need to get the direct link to the image, which you should be able to get directly in your browser. However, it is possible for someone to make it very difficult for you to find the web address of an image so these directions may not work for all images on all sites.

browser choices for images

Start by right-clicking on the image, which will give you a menu of choices. Although the wording may differ depending on the browser you’re using, you want something that will copy the address/URL of the image. In this case (from Chrome on a Mac), choose Copy Image Address.

The address for the image most often will end in .jpg, but it might also end in .gif or .png.

When you have the direct link to the picture, open your marker, click the Add web image… button, paste the link to the image in the Image URL box, and click OK.

add image url to marker box

This will insert a line of HTML code into the edit window that looks something like this:

<img src=””>

You can place this text within any other text you have in the marker but everything between the <> brackets (including the brackets) must go together.

Resizing the Image

The size at which your images will display when the marker is opened depends on the size of the original. If the picture is too large, it will open with scroll bars and may not give your users the best experience.

It is best to select an image with the right size in the first place (no longer than 500 pixels on the longest side is recommended) but if that’s not possible, you can tell Google Earth to display your image in another size by adding just a little more HTML to what you already have.

In the example above, the picture is 640 by 427 pixels. I know that because the Wikipedia that hosts this image gives me that information. There are browser tools that can give you the same dimensions but it can sometimes be difficult so a little experimentation may be in order.

Since, as mentioned above, I recommend 500 pixels as the maximum dimension, so, using a little math (remember your ratios!), we know the display size should be 500 by 334 pixels.

To make that happen, change the HTML example above to this by adding the width and height attributes:

<img src=”” width=”500″ height=”334″>

The numbers following height and width could be anything you want but it’s best to keep them proportional by.  Also, the numbers must be in quotation marks but the order of the two dimensions doesn’t matter.

And here’s the result when viewed in a Google Earth balloon.

Google Earth balloon open

Adding Images Using Embed Codes

Often the easiest way to add an image to your marker is if the web site on which it’s posted gives you the “embed code”.  On Flickr, for example, if you are logged into your account (which is free) or you are viewing an image whose owner has allowed sharing, in the lower right corner you will see the sharing icon (a curved arrow pointing to the right). Click it to see your options.

options for sharing in flickrClick on Embed, and then select your size from the drop menu. Medium, with 500 pixels for the longest side, is the best for using in Google Earth.

For pictures posted by other members of Flickr, you will have this option only if the owner has attached a Creative Commons license (read more about CC) allowing you to reuse it. You can search for CC licensed images by going to advanced search in Flickr.

Although Flickr is probably the best of the bunch, there are many other photo sharing sites that also make the embed code available. Check the help section of the site you want to use for directions on where to find it and the restrictions.


Generally, you don’t need to worry about copyright when you link directly to images or other media that are posted on the web for your Google Earth projects.

However, since nothing about copyright law is that cut and dried, there are a few details you need to be aware of and follow.

  • The source of all outside media should be cited using a link back to the page on which the image appears. It’s a good idea to cite all sources in any project anyway, and a link is that citation as well as your acknowledgement that the image is owned by someone else.
  • Your Google Earth project can be redistributed but should not be sold or included with any profit-making activity without permission of the copyright owner.
  • It’s always best practice to look for material that is distributed under a Creative Commons license (like the image from Wikimedia in my example), which explains exactly what the owner is giving you permission to do with their work.
  • And finally, remember I am not a lawyer. While linking to web-based media for educational purposes is clearly covered under the fair use provisions of US copyright law, and you will likely prevail in court, most companies have more money for legal bills than you and your school. Tread lightly around anything Disney or Star Trek.