The ability of pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) to differentiate into retinal tissue has led to many attempts to direct this process to yield specific retinal cell types. The ability to do so would greatly impact both the study of normal retina development in model systems that can be precisely controlled and the generation of a homogeneous population of cells optimized for transplantation in cell replacement therapy. Thus far, many reviews have focused on the translational potential of PSC retinal studies. Here, we focus on the former by summarizing the advances and reflecting on the current limitations to using in vitro differentiation of PSCs into retinal cells and organoids to model in vivo retinal development, with a specific emphasis on photoreceptors. We discuss the versatility of PSC retinal differentiation systems in investigating specific developmental time points that are difficult to assess with classic developmental model systems as well as the potential for efficient screening of factors involved in regulating photoreceptor differentiation. PSCs can be used in conjunction with existing model systems to contribute to the understanding of retina and photoreceptor development, which in turn can enhance the success of using stem cells in translational studies.