What is a Photo CD?

A photo CD is a compact disc (CD) on which photographs can easily be placed. These CDs are typically made by home users with a computer that has a CD burner by simply copying digital photographs onto a CD. They can also be produced at commercial photograph developing locations, where non-digital photographs are developed and copies of each image are saved onto a CD for easier reproduction in the future. A photo CD can also refer to a specific type of CD that was once promoted by Kodak™ but failed to become extensively popular for a number of reasons.

Often used with digital photography, a photo CD is a simple and affordable way for a large number of photographs to be stored and transported. Digital photographs can usually be exported from a device, such as a digital camera, onto a computer and saved for further use. Once on a computer, it is usually quite simple to burn these digital photographs onto a photo CD, as long as the computer has an internal or external CD burner connected to it. This CD can then be used to copy the images onto other computers, be given as a gift, or simply used as data backup in case of corruption of the original images.

A photo CD can also be produced from images taken on a standard camera; this is usually done during development of those images. The pictures can be scanned by the company developing the photographs and then stored on a CD, which can be provided to customers for future use. This type of photo CD can either be easy to access, giving the customer digital copies of his or her pictures, or may require proprietary software only used by the company that produced the CD. In this way, the company can ensure that the customer must return to them for future prints of the images on the disc.

During the early 1990s, this sort of photo CD technology was first employed by Kodak™ and was fairly successful throughout the decade. There were some drawbacks, however, to this sort of proprietary software, and changes in technology soon made home CD burners and scanners more affordable and practical. As both professional and amateur photographers began using home computer equipment for digitizing photographs, followed by the proliferation of digital cameras at reasonable prices, this sort of business model became untenable. Kodak™ has since ended its photo CD program and the entire endeavor is frequently viewed as a cautionary tale by other companies.