White balance is simply another name for color balance in a digital camera image. The reason it is referred to as "white balance" is that when an image is correctly balanced, the neutral colors such as white are as close to normal as possible.
Not all whites are created equal
It depends upon just where you are when you look at a color. The same surface changes color depending on the time of day and the lighting conditions at the time you are viewing. For instance, in the early morning hours, there is a warm glow from the natural light of the sun. Later in the day, the color change dramatically.
Interior lighting is also quite diverse, depending on the light source. Natural light from outside gives one type of color to an image that is much different than the color when you are in a room that is lit using table lamps with incandescent bulbs. And you will get yet another color from fluorescent light bulbs.
Most digital cameras have white balance settings
You can improve the quality of your photos by paying attention to these controls before you snap the picture. Of course, the more advanced your camera is, the more control you will have over the white balance settings. However, even with less expensive point and shoot cameras, if you set the white balance correctly, you can get photos that are as good as those from the multi-thousand dollar cameras with regard to color balance.
The default setting for every digital camera is Auto White Balance. With this setting, the camera software will evaluate and meter the light automatically when you press the shutter button. Some cameras have better results than others when using the auto white balance setting.
Then there are a number of pre-set white balance settings on most cameras. With pre-sets, the photographer considers the lighting and moves the proper camera dial to the preferred pre-set. Normal choices are Daylight, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Cloudy, and Flash.
Some more advanced digital cameras allow you to manually set the color temperature. This setting is not limited to digital SLR cameras; some of the better point and shoot models have this capability as well. In order to set the white balance this way, you will need to know how the Kelvin measurement scale relates to different shades of light.
If you happen to forget to set the white balance on your camera, and the resulting picture is totally wrong with respect to color correctness, you still have an option. White Balance can be adjusted in your computer photo editing software. Of course, the best software for doing this is Adobe Photoshop, but even the inexpensive and free software applications will allow you to correct image color.
Once you know the basics of white balance, you will be able to get the settings correct nearly every time. You can even use the pre-set white balance settings to get creative with your photography by using the wrong setting. For instance, use the tungsten setting to add a blue cast to almost any photo. This will give the picture a kind of vintage look. Experiment with this idea, and you may find several you like.