I'm super pale naturally so i use fake tan just to look a more 'normal' colour. I've been using fake tan for the last year or so now and I've worked out what works and what doesn't for me and my skin. For me, i need a fake tan that's easy to apply, doesn't dry my skin out and isn't too dark.
When it comes to prepping my skin, i always shave and exfoliate a day or two before. I'm currently using the Soap & Glory Scrub 'em and Leave 'em Body Buff and pay the closest attention to my knees, elbows, shoulders and chest area. Once I've removed all the dead skin, i apply a lotion every evening after my shower or bath. My favourite evening moisturising lotion is the Palmers Cocoa Butter Firming Butter. For me, the more hydrated you skin is the better the fake tan will apply and take to your skin. I always use a different moisturiser in the morning - something quicker.
I always apply my fake tan with a mitt to avoid any orange hand disasters. I'm currently using the St Tropez Express Self Tan which you leave on for 1 hour for a light tan, 2 hours for a medium tan and 3 for a deep tan. I always go for the light - maybe leaving it on for an hour and a half at the most. I find this doesn't have that awful 'fake tan' smell. It also doesn't dry my skin out. It's easy to apply and work with. I've been enjoying using this and I've had a lot of compliments on my skin tone when I've been using this.