Membrane protein biogenesis poses enormous challenges to cellular protein homeostasis and requires effective molecular chaperones. Compared with chaperones that promote soluble protein folding, membrane protein chaperones require tight spatiotemporal coordination of their substrate binding and release cycles. Here we define the chaperone cycle for cpSRP43, which protects the largest family of membrane proteins, the light harvesting chlorophyll a/b-binding proteins (LHCPs), during their delivery. Biochemical and NMR analyses demonstrate that cpSRP43 samples three distinct conformations. The stromal factor cpSRP54 drives cpSRP43 to the active state, allowing it to tightly bind substrate in the aqueous compartment. Bidentate interactions with the Alb3 translocase drive cpSRP43 to a partially inactive state, triggering selective release of LHCP's transmembrane domains in a productive unloading complex at the membrane. Our work demonstrates how the intrinsic conformational dynamics of a chaperone enables spatially coordinated substrate capture and release, which may be general to other ATP-independent chaperone systems.