I'm going to give you a little bit of advice. Photographers really dislike emails where the list of questions has been copied out of a Magazine or off a blog post. Every list is almost the same, and some people are asking the questions because they've been told they should ask the question and have no idea sometimes what the best answers should be.
First of all questions you should ask in your first email...
Do you have my Date Available?
This is one question we do not mind, I have an availability checker on my website but appreciate not everyone checks it. If I am unavailable, I will send you some links of photographers I refer to for if I am booked.
Is my wedding out of your area? Do you charge a travel fee and what does it cover?
This is something you can ask especially in a first email if you aren't getting married locally to the photographer. Most photographers will travel within a certain distance or area. I say within 50miles or "Yorkshire" I do not charge additional for. Birmingham, Scotland, Wales, Kent (plus lots of others) for myself would incur additional travelling expenses.
Have you ever worked at my Wedding venue before? If not, do you plan to visit?
This question is good for a variety of reasons. If I have shot a venue before, I will send links to blogs I have done most recently at that Venue. If not, I'll be honest about it. I've been in business six years now - and there are still some venues on my doorstep that I've not photographed at. I do try, where possible to arrange a meeting at the venue to have a look around / pre-shoot etc. I like photographing new venues too - because I look on them with "fresh eyes" as some photographers may shoot the venue and have their own shots at certain points and may not deviate from what they know.
How much of a booking fee do you require, and when is it due?
If prices are not listed on the photographers website, this is something you need to ask as well as this question. Most booking fee's are payable as soon as possible to book and secure your date. Most photographers work on a first come first served basis.
A lot of photographers that I know, and especially how I work (apart from distance bookings) we plan on meeting up to have a chat, a look through albums, and see whether or not we gel and click as client and photographer.
So therefore these next set of questions are things that you can ask at the meeting or telephone conversation with your photographer. Some photographers will answer these questions whilst chatting to you, others will need prompting.
Questions you should ask at a meeting or telephone consultation
Are you the photographer who will shoot my wedding?
Some photographers do not work by themselves and have people who shoot under their name. Make sure that the person you are talking to is the person who will photograph your Wedding. I personally shoot all Weddings that I book.
How many weddings have you shot?
This question is one of those that is a double edged sword. You could have a photographer, like myself who only photographs maximum of 20 Weddings per year. Or you could have a photographer who shoots 50 weddings a year.
Which leads onto the next question...
How long have you been in business?
Again with the above question, one photographer in 3 years could have shot 60 Weddings, and one in 1 year could have shot 50 Weddings. A lot of people ask this question for not just experience, but longevity. Will this photographer still be around next year.
Can I give you a list of specific shots we would like?
Unless you are booking someone who is purely just a documentary / reportage photographer than most photographers will request a shot list - especially for family or group shots.
After you have met, or had a telephone consultation with your potential photographer you will either want to chat with your partner and think about it - or you may feel a fab click and connection with the photographer and want to book.
Questions you should ask just before you book.
When will I receive a written contract?
Every vendor you deal with should give you a written contract. This covers them, and yourself too. This can be classed as signed terms and conditions, or classed as a contract. If any vendor doesn't have one then I would worry. My Contracts are sent out in a booking pack with one copy for the couple to keep, and one for them to return (including a Stamped Addressed Envelope)
Do you have backup equipment? What about a backup plan if you are unable to shoot my wedding for some reason?
Professional Wedding Photographers should have backup equipment so that if anything went wrong you wouldn't notice with how the photographer deals with it.
I am a member of professional photography associations, and being in business for 6 years, I have access to a fabulous team of "SOS" photographers if needed. Luckily, in 6 years I've not had to call on one of these.
Do you have Liability Insurance?
Depending on your Wedding Venue, they will ask your Wedding Photographer to have a certain amount of Liability Insurance. I know in my experience I had to up mine from £2million to £5million for a couple of venues. It just means that the photographer is covered - especially if any damage happens to the venue (or guests) and means its peace of mind for you.
How long after the wedding will I get to see my photographs?
As mentioned before, a lot of photographers work differently some photographers will turn their work around in 3 weeks. Some will quote 4-6 weeks, and others will quote 12 weeks. There are many different reasons why different photographers quote longer. Some may get the images back sooner than the quoted time, but may work to quoted time during the busier months.
As you can see there are plenty of questions that you should ask your Wedding Photographer but a lot of the lists then also focus on photography style, and equipment. Some photographers will say "I photograph photojournalistic" but couples will still want group shots which not all photojournalistic photographers do. Fitting into a certain style doesn't work for all photographers, or for all couples. What you really need to look at is do you like their work - and if you would like your wedding to look like that then surely it doesn't matter what "box" the style fits in.
The magazine lists are there to try and guide you - but do focus on questions that can be irrelevant or confuse you further. Don't just copy and paste the list to photographers you are interested in - try and be a bit more personal.
I hope this helps you realise what you should focus on.