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Dad behind amazing father-daughter photo series shares his secrets

Sep. 26, 2012 at 12:19 PM ET

This post was updated Sept. 27.

When Dave Engledow took a funny photo of himself as a sleep-deprived new dad, holding his baby daughter like a football while squirting her bottle of milk into his "World's Best Father" coffee mug, it was meant as a joke for family and friends.

But the photo got such a reaction and his follow-ups were so popular that his one-time joke became a regular hobby, an online sensation -- and a great father-daughter bonding experience.

Engledow and daughter Alice Bee, who will turn 2 in December, visited TODAY on Thursday to talk about the photo sensation. Engledow said the overwhelmingly positive response from around the world has been gratifying. "I received a really wonderful email last night from a college-aged woman who said she's never been able to find anything for her dad for his birthday and this year she thinks she's found the right present, which is one of our calendars," he told TODAY's Matt Lauer. 

Alice Bee is just starting to understand the photos, which are currently a viral hit on sites like BuzzFeed. "She points at the screen and says "Daddy!'" or "AhhBee" (which is what she calls herself)," Engledow wrote in an email to TODAY Moms. "She is also starting to laugh at some of the obviously silly ones."

As Engledow chatted with TODAY on set, little Alice squirmed away -- but stopped and sat contentedly on the edge of the stage when she saw herself in the monitor. He stressed that Alice is never in any danger when he makes the photos -- their parts are shot separately and edited together, so she's not actually crouching on a lit barbecue grill or sitting in a pot on the stove! Life with a toddler means plenty of inspiration for funny scenarios, Engledow told TODAY: "I have a list of at least 100 ideas I haven't shot yet, and every day there are new ideas that come."

Engledow studied photojournalism in college but pursued a career in another field. The birth of Alice Bee provided a creative spark. Engledow describes his motivation on the Kickstarter page, where he was trying to raise money to turn his Alice photos into a calendar:

The vast majority of images in this series [are] multiple shots taken on a tripod and merged in Photoshop to create a (hopefully) realistic and humorous portrait of an act of parenting that is dangerous, neglectful, or just plain wrong.  

The character I portray in this series is intended to be a parody of the father I hope I never become--distracted, self-absorbed, neglectful, clueless, or even occasionally overbearing.  

Dave's project has been fully funded (and then some) on Kickstarter, so the calendar is a go. If you want to help him pick which photos to use in the calendar, he's looking for input on his Facebook page. Given the obvious love and playfulness that shine through all of these photos, there's little chance Engledow will become a neglectful dad!

The photos can take hours to make -- but most of that time is spent setting up and processing and editing the images (which can take upwards of 20 hours, Engledow said). His secret to getting good shots of a toddler: fun, patience, and the occasional fruit snack bribe.

He told TODAY Moms, "Alice, like most children her age, has a very short attention span.  For shoots where we're doing something she's interested in (like eating a cookie or playing in the sink) it's really easy to get the shot.  If it's something she is less interested in doing, we just try to have a lot of patience, take breaks if she gets cranky, and occasionally try to incentivize her with fruit snacks to pose. The nice thing about shooting with strobes is that the shutter fires at 1/160 of a second, and there have been several shots where that was pretty much the exact amount of time she actually sat still. :) "

Engledow lives in Maryland with his wife, a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army who is currently serving a one-year tour of duty in Seoul. While mom can't always be there for the photos, she helps select images via Google Hangout, Engledow wrote. And what an amazing way for a parent stationed overseas to keep up with what's happening at home!

TODAY /
Ballet for dummies.
TODAY /
Breakfast in bed, daddy style.
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But daddy, I wanna hear "Goodnight Moon"!
TODAY /
Every parent's fantasy...
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Gold medal or bust!
I think I see what the problem is...
TODAY
I think I see what the problem is...

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