This study focuses on the key theory of lightning detection, exposure and the experiments. Firstly, the algorithm based on differential operation between two adjacent frames is selected to remove the lightning background information and extract lighting signal, and the threshold detection algorithm is applied to achieve the purpose of precise detection of lightning. Secondly, an algorithm is proposed to obtain scene exposure value, which can automatically detect external illumination status. Subsequently, a look-up table could be built on the basis of the relationships between the exposure value and average image brightness to achieve rapid automatic exposure. Finally, based on a USB 3.0 industrial camera including a CMOS imaging sensor, a set of hardware test platform is established and experiments are carried out on this platform to verify the performances of the proposed algorithms. The algorithms can effectively and fast capture clear lightning pictures such as special nighttime scenes, which will provide beneficial supporting to the smartphone industry, since the current exposure methods in smartphones often lost capture or induce overexposed or underexposed pictures.