This study resolved correlations between changes in xanthophyll pigments and photosynthetic properties in attached and detached shade-grown avocado (Persea americana) leaves upon sun exposure. Lutein epoxide (Lx) was deepoxidized to lutein (L), increasing the total pool by ΔL over 5 h, whereas violaxanthin (V) conversion to antheraxanthin (A) and zeaxanthin (Z) ceased after 1 h. During subsequent dark or shade recovery, de novo synthesis of L and Z continued, followed by epoxidation of A and Z but not of L. Light-saturated nonphotochemical quenching (NPQ) was strongly and linearly correlated with decreasing [Lx] and increasing [∆L] but showed a biphasic correlation with declining [V] and increasing [A+Z] separated when V deepoxidation ceased. When considering [ΔL+∆Z], the monophasic linear correlation was restored. Photochemical efficiency of photosystem II (PSII) and photosystem (PSI; deduced from the delivery of electrons to PSI in saturating single-turnover flashes) showed a strong correlation in their continuous decline in sunlight and an increase in NPQ capacity. This decrease was also reflected in the initial reduction of the slope of photosynthetic electron transport versus photon flux density. Generally longer, stronger sun exposures enhanced declines in both slope and maximum photosynthetic electron transport rates as well as photochemical efficiency of PSII and PSII/PSI more severely and prevented full recovery. Interestingly, increased NPQ capacity was accompanied by slower relaxation. This was more prominent in detached leaves with closed stomata, indicating that photorespiratory recycling of CO2 provided little photoprotection to avocado shade leaves. Sun exposure of these shade leaves initiates a continuum of photoprotection, beyond full engagement of the Lx and V cycle in the antenna, but ultimately photoinactivated PSII reaction centers.