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Meet Whitney Gookenbarger of Whitney Danielle Photography

Today we’d like to introduce you to Whitney Gookenbarger.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
After a stint in the business world that left me asking myself, “What is truly going to make me happy?” What really matters in life? What fulfills ME?” I decided to switch my focus to the thing’s that make me feel like I’m truly living. For me, this is being with my family, the pursuit of adventure, and being able to capture life’s most precious moments through photography. I absolutely love what I do! Once I found photography there was no question that this would be a lifelong journey for me, and my best yet.

I’ve been full-time in the industry for a little under two years now. I’m completely self-taught with no formal art or photography training, so it took some time to really fine-tune my skills and find my style, which continues to evolve to this day and always will. It took me a while to realize that there is no end to the learning process. It becomes even more important as you grow and improve.

I went from being a full-time corporate banker to a published photographer within a matter of 3 years. I’m someone who strives under pressure and when I set my mind to something, I’m all-in. I also knew that at almost 30 years old starting a brand new career in one of the most competitive markets in the U.S., I had no time to lose.

A major key in my journey was attending a few enlightening photography workshops that helped me solidify the direction I wanted to take with my work. I also relied on my community of trusted photographers as a source of knowledge and support during my start and even still. No person is completely self-made, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without their support.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I always say that photography is not for the faint of heart. No creative career ever is. There are days where I have questioned my own sanity for taking something like this on! In the end, photography saved me every time and is what I always choose. That said, it’s not perfect. It does not come without struggles like any career you’ll have in this life.

Photography is art, first and foremost, but let’s not kid ourselves and pretend this isn’t one of the most competitive businesses in the creative industry. It can be hard to find a trusted community in this game, but I’m lucky to have some of the best in this industry on my team. I’ll never forget who those people are and what they have done for me.

Living and working in the Southern California market is also extremely challenging with the incredible amount of talent here, and the high volume of competing photographer’s across San Diego and Los Angeles. On the other hand, what I have accomplished in such a short time here, is so much more meaningful to me because I’m up against the best of the best in the industry by being where I am. It’s what motivates me to work harder every single day.

Whitney Danielle Photography – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I started Whitney Danielle Photography in August of 2016 after falling in love with portraits. I now specialize in Fashion, Styled Portraits, Boudoir, and Elopement Photography in San Diego/Los Angeles, CA + beyond.

My photography is moody, expressive, intimate, and certainly not your average ‘point and shoot’ photo session. I want clients who want to feel something with me and join me in creating portraits that are personalized art and unique to who they are.

Although my creative work has a huge piece of my heart, I would have to say that out of everything I focus on, I’m more widely known for my boudoir and women’s empowerment work.

Whitney Danielle Photography – VIP Boudoir + Women’s Empowerment Group:

I believe that empowered women EMPOWER women and that is my ultimate goal in what I do with my boudoir clients. It’s not about looking sexy or perfect, it’s about feeling good in your own skin, and some of these women are experiencing this with me for the first time ever. I can’t explain to you the power these women feel and the journey I get to watch them take during the hour+ we spend together.

I want to help the women I work with break down their own walls, and crush the stereotype of what “beautiful” really is. ALL Bodies. ALL Women. ALL Sizes. ALL Beauty.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Coming from the financial industry, success used to mean nothing more to me than my pay grade and job title. It was a constant climb to get to the next level, at all costs. I never found myself any happier once I was at the level I thought I needed to be to claim success. I look back on that time now and realize that I wasn’t even close to living a “successful” life.

If my photography journey has taught me anything it’s that happiness is the ultimate measure of success. If you can go to sleep at night at peace with yourself, proud of what you do, your life and the people around you, then you are a profound success to me.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Marlene Mota, Jennifer Garcia, Model: Tara Koenke, Jasmine Pilar, Jaclyn Weber, Melissa Dozier-Jones of Mad Images Inc.

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.


  1. Melanie Guiang

    April 30, 2018 at 12:21 am

    Your work is beautiful and moving and your words inspiring! Loved what you said about Empowered Women EMPOWER women and your thoughts on success. Beautifully said!

    • Whitney

      November 29, 2018 at 10:08 pm

      @Melanie, I somehow JUST saw this! Thank you so so much! I appreciate the support. 🖤

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