A FORMER bouncer has been named the nation’s Photographer of the Year – only two-and-a-half years after realising she had an eye for a picture.

Tracy Willis, 42, specialises in taking pictures of newborn babies.

She won the 2012 Photographer of the Year award from the Guild of Photographers as well as its People Photographer of the Year category. The titles come on top of 34 gold awards.

Tracy, who worked as a door person in the majority of Bournemouth clubs and bars, says she took up photography at the Bournemouth Air Festival a couple of years ago – when her partner handed her his spare camera and said: “Go on have a go.”

Tracy, who was rejected for a place on Bournemouth University’s midwifery course at age 35, was keen to photograph newborn babies.

She was thrown into the deep end when a bouncer friend set up a roomful of 11 babies for her to photograph.

She said: “I walked in the door and they were all screaming. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing! I loved it though.”

Her first Photography Guild award was presented to her only two months after shooting her cousin’s wedding in Sandbanks.

A world-renowned, multi-award winning photographer, Damian McGillicuddy, aka ‘Big Dog’, has become her mentor.

After he posted several critical comments about her work on the Guild of Photographers forum, she was on the brink of packing it in when he told her that she was too good to give up and invited her to train with him.

“I didn’t like him at first but now I realise that without it, nobody would learn,” she said.

Tracy now runs workshops up and down the country with Damian and is known by her students as The Baby Whisperer for her impressive strategies to get the babies off to a deep sleep.

Tracy said: “I have held hundreds of babies now, each one has a different personality. I take baby from mum and work out their hypothetical on/off button.”

Now at the last hurdle of peaking in her specialist category, Tracy is on the lookout for a new area to conquer – artistic environmental portraiture.

“I just want to learn more and more now, I have got the bug. I will never reach the point where I think I am the best.”