Photosynthetic organisms have found various smart ways to cope with unexpected changes in light conditions. In many cyanobacteria, the lethal effects of a sudden increase in light intensity are mitigated mainly by the interaction between phycobilisomes (PBs) and the orange carotenoid protein (OCP). The latter senses high light intensities by means of photoactivation and triggers thermal energy dissipation from the PBs. Due to the brightness of their emission, PBs can be characterized at the level of individual complexes. Here, energy dissipation from individual PBs was reversibly switched on and off using only light and OCP. We reveal the presence of quasistable intermediate states during the binding and unbinding of OCP to PB, with a spectroscopic signature indicative of transient decoupling of some of the PB rods during docking of OCP. Real-time control of emission from individual PBs has the potential to contribute to the development of new super-resolution imaging techniques.