Recent epidemiological evidence in children indicates that time spent outdoors is protective against myopia. Studies in animal models (chick, macaque, tree shrew) have found that light levels (similar to being in the shade outdoors) that are mildly elevated compared to indoor levels, slow form-deprivation myopia and (in chick and tree shrew) lens-induced myopia. Normal chicks raised in low light levels (50lux) with a circadian light on/off cycle often develop spontaneous myopia. We propose a model in which the ambient illuminance levels produce a continuum of effects on normal refractive development and the response to myopiagenic stimuli such that low light levels favor myopia development and elevated levels are protective. Among possible mechanisms, elevation of retinal dopamine activity seems the most likely. Inputs from intrinsically-photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) at elevated light levels may be involved, providing additional activation of retinal dopaminergic pathways. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.