The albums spawned three singles: "A Movie Script Ending", "I Was a Kaleidoscope", and "We Laugh Indoors". All of the singles charted on the UK Singles Chart, with the highest charting song "I Was a Kaleidoscope", peaking at number 115. The Photo Album was the first Death Cab for Cutie album to feature charting songs, with "A Movie Script Ending" also becoming the first of three songs by the band to eventually feature on the television show The O.C.. It was the only full-length album to feature drummer Michael Schorr.
A limited edition extended play called The Stability EP was released in early 2002, containing bonus tracks from the limited edition and Japanese versions of The Photo Album.
The album so far has a score of 75 out of 100 from Metacritic based on "generally favorable reviews".Billboard gave the album a very favorable review and said, "If it's true that music of this nature doesn't get anymore heartfelt, it also rarely gets more infectious."Alternative Press gave the album four stars out of five and said, "It's the skillful meshing of Benjamin Gibbard's part-stream-of-consciousness, part-confessional vocals with melancholy piano and achingly melodic guitars that reveal a fleshed-out Cutie are indeed a band of uncommon beauty." Nude as the News gave it a score of eight out of ten and stated, "While not every song is a gem, the ones that are have pushed the band's already high standard of compelling indie pop one notch higher."Mojo also gave it four stars out of five and said, "Death Cab weave together smartly taut guitars with vivid observational lyrics to create perfectly crafted pop songs, stunning in their simplicity and beauty." Neumu.net gave it seven stars out of ten and called it "evidence of a band that's maturing, slowing down and trying new things." Drawer B gave it a positive review and stated, "The most noteworthy aspect of The Photo Album is the band’s upward trajectory. The music is cohesive and even, though still somewhat sluggish."
Other reviews are pretty average or mixed: The Austin Chronicle gave the album three stars out of five and said, "It's a rare talent that can express such emotions so concisely; even more rare is the ability to deliver them in a near-whisper rather than a scream."Q also gave it three stars out of five and said, "Full of beautiful pop songs, The Photo Album is just that--a collection of vignettes."The A.V. Club gave it an average review and said that "Its 38-minute run time is often marked by pleasant but static, middle-of-the-road material."