The photosystem II reaction centre of all oxygenic organisms is subject to photodamage by high light i.e. photoinhibition. In this review I discuss the reasons for the inevitable and unpreventable oxidative damage that occurs in photosystem II and the way in which β-carotene bound to the reaction centre significantly mitigates this damage. Recent X-ray structures of the photosystem II core complex (reaction centre plus the inner antenna complexes) have revealed the binding sites of some of the carotenoids known to be bound to the complex. In the light of these X-ray structures and their known biophysical properties it is thus possible to identify the two β-carotenes present in the photosystem II reaction centre. The two carotenes are both bound to the D2 protein and this positioning is discussed in relation to their ability to act as quenchers of singlet oxygen, generated via the triplet state of the primary electron donor. It is proposed that their location on the D2 polypeptide means there is more oxidative damage to the D1 protein and that this underlies the fact that this latter protein is continuously re-synthesised, at a far greater rate than any other protein involved in photosynthesis. The relevance of a cycle of electrons around photosystem II, via cytochrome b559, in order to re-reduce the β-carotenes when they are oxidised and hence restore their ability to quench singlet oxygen, is also discussed.