There are a lot of techniques for handling white balance and what I do isn't necessarily the right way...it's just what works best for me and my workflow. I choose to set my camera to Auto White Balance so that my camera is worrying about this and I don't have to. Sometimes I find it's easier to make your camera do some of the work for you. When I take the image into post production, I typically use the "white balance selector" in Lightroom, which is the icon that looks like a little eye drop under the "Basic" module. I will find a part of the image that is as close to white or light grey as possible and click on that part of the image. This usually does a pretty good job unless your under really intense halogen lighting or something. If I don't have anything white the image to go off of I will adjust the temperature and tint sliders until I like the way the image looks. Depending on if your style has more blue tones or warm tones, this can vary greatly. One thing that can really affect getting your white balance right in camera is shooting near green grass, which reflects green tones onto the subject's skin. In this case I will typically bring up my magenta tones to balance out the green.
You can also use an Expodisc to customize your White Balance on shoots or custom adjust your Kelvin Scale in camera based on the color temperature of your location. Again, the way I do it isn't necessarily how you should do it. It's what works best for me and how I work.
What are your tips for shooting in harsh lighting conditions?
As much as I'd love to be able to shoot exclusively at magic hour all day, every day...this simply isn't realistic. Sometimes a wedding timeline doesn't permit for magic hour portraits. Sometimes a client is only available to shoot in the middle of the day. While it's difficult to replicate the warm, magic light that happens just before sunset, it's still possible to get beautiful images.
One of the most important things I learned when I first started shooting was to place the subject facing away from the sun. When the sun is at its highest point it will cast very harsh shadows on the face that are really unflattering and often cause your subject to squint. By simply turning your subject around so the sun is behind them, you have placed even light on their face. Another tip is to find a patch of shade somewhere nearby. When in full sun, shooting in the shade can be a life saver. If you have buildings nearby, try to find a building with a white wall to use as a natural reflector for fill light. You can also bring a reflector. ;)
What's your favorite thing to photograph?
Love, of course. I spent a long time trying to figure out what kind of photography inspired me the most. I experimented with fashion, food, landscapes, etc. All of these types of photography are beautiful and inspiring in their own right...it's just that, I've never felt I would get out of bed at 5am to shoot at sunrise for a beautiful landscape image. I've never felt totally fired up spending hours stylizing a food shot. I would, however, wake up at 5am to photograph a couple in love and spend hours stylizing their wardrobe and location. Because it sets my heart on fire. It lights up my soul. The thing that lights me up when I'm shooting is human connection. When I get a shot that captures the subtleties of love's exchange, I feel in my heart I've done something right. I feel I've taken a little piece of how I see the world and can now share it with everyone else.