I've decided to do a mini-tutorial. It might not be as much of a tutorial as it is a good piece of information. So... white balance. Basically white balance is the color cast that shows up in your photos. If you've heard the term "temperature" when referring to photos, it's basically referring to white balance. This isn't the most important aspect of your camera, but I still think it is good information to learn and use in your shooting.
An incorrect WB can create different shades of blue, orange, or green colors shades in your photos. These can damage or take a lot more time to correct.
Warmer colors = more yellow and cooler colors = more blue.
It is important to be able to set your camera to the true colors of the room. By adjusting to the appropriate white balance, you're able to capture the actual color of the room. For example, below I will show you two unedited photos. One with an automatic setting of white balance and one with a custom white balance set.
Automatic White Balance:
Custom White Balance
See what I mean? Big difference. Imagine trying to get rid of that yellowish/red tint during the editing process. Annoying.
As you can see, the custom white balance depicts what the actual color of the room is. Where the automatic white balance shows a reddish/yellow cast over the image. This cast is not true to color because when I actually took the photo, the room wasn't that "warm".
By having the correct white balance, you're able to capture a more accurate image, and save yourself time in photoshop. The ultimate goal is to do as little editing as possible.
There are a couple ways to change the white balance on your camera. First, there are pre-sets that you can use to that will guess what the balance will be in the room according to the lights. Most likely your settings will look like this.
You can use these settings as a general judge, and for the most part it will do a decent job.
I personally like to use a custom setting. To do the custom setting, you generally (when I say generally I really mean general because all cameras are different. I run a Canon and this is how mine works) will take a photo of a white object using the light that you plan on taking the other photos with. Sometimes I'll use clothing, piece of paper or anything that is white. In the instance above, I used a napkin. You can literally use anything white as a reference.
Set your camera to custom white balance (you can see what the custom setting looks like on the diagram above). By doing that you are telling your camera, "hey, this is the light that I have so please adjust to it to give me true color". By setting that custom setting your camera is able to understand that the white photo that you just took is the white that the rest of the room has. Using the custom white balance means there is no guessing. If you are not as familiar with your camera on how to set a custom white balance, I would whip out your manual and take a look. My camera requires me to go into my menu and select the white balance reference that I photographed, as well as changing my setting to the custom white balance setting.
So, there you have it. A quick explanation of white balance. I'm sure there are more technical ways to explain it but I felt I wanted to explain it in my terms where it made more sense and had more practical use.
I will most likely be doing a basic photography course in the fall, in which I will be going over this as well but I've been shooting indoors a lot more and feel that the white balance is most important when doing so.
Anyway, here is the the image of the correct white balance with some basic touch ups. Much better and much easier to fix.
Versus the automatic setting below which took me double the time to edit and doesn't have as accurate light. Notice the slight green tint it has. It looks okay, but still not as good as above and isn't as time-efficent as the photo above. I also feel like it's more noisy (in a bad way). The picture above with the correct white balance has true warmth. This isn't warmth that I created, this was warmth that actually existed. The photo below has lost that and there wasn't a way that I could repair it.
Don't judge me by this comment, but I feel that if you can do more with your camera and less artificially (via photoshop), it shows that you are a much better photographer because you are able to really use your camera. As a photographer, my ultimate goal is to be able to push my camera to it's fullest potential and know that I'm doing my job, and not compensating for it later.
I will admit, when I first started off I was super guilty at claiming I'd just fix it later. I think in this digital age this will happen more and more. The more I take photos, the more I strive to perfect my skills before the files even hit my computer.
I hope this helps. Feel free to ask any questions that might not have been very clear.