I'll have to post later a link to a post I wrote a few months back: it explains my own proceedure and why I do it that way very well.
First, I use burlap, a very mild material that burns easily, cool and long. I think it vents out of the hive quickly and I smell no residual smoke smell in the wax and very little resin (unlike hemps brother - we won't go there) would resin up a smoker.
I loosely place 2 or 3 one foot square sheets of burlap into the smoker - according to the length of time I plan to be inspecting or harvesting in the hives. For example, when BigRog takes over C3 hive in a week or 2, I'll smoke them fairly good - long enough for him to get several photos taken while holding frames of C1 and C2 hives and while we load up C3 for the big ride home to Viriginia.
But generally, I get the fire out in the the smoker, wait until the smoke flows nicely by itself without pumping the smoker and then I'll shoot four or five good slow pumps into the main entrance of each hive I plan to work.
I'll go back in about 5 minutes later, tilt the outer cover a bit toward the back and repeat the 5 puffs of smoke and leave them alone at least 5 and even 10 minute, this is to give them time to gorge honey which:
* fills their honey stomach (the Crop) making it almost impossible for them to bend, and if they can't bend, they can't sting (the stinger works like a retractable blade which is kept normally in the retract mode)
* it calms them down instinctually by putting them into the "There's a FIRE" mode which has them gorging and scrambling around but,
* being stuffed with honey, the scramble a lot slower because they are fat and happy with honey.
* The whole smoking process covers up HUMAN ODORS which make interacting with the bees a pleasure - you can get right in there and they smell the smoke and are all plumped up with honey - you have plenty of time to work them without being overly-watchful of EVERY ERROR you can make during inspection.
So I use my smoker most everytime I go in the hive - if I'm only pulling the cover and pulling a single frame, I'll leave the smoker in the shed - but if I'm in there searching for queens and brood, switching boxes around, harvesting honey, cutting queen cells out, etc - then I'm gonna smoke them.
I don't like gloves, or suits and never use them unless it is an emergency where all heck breaks loose (animals or kids turn over the hives, etc.) then I'll suit up because I don't hve time to slowly work the bees.
But that is always my last point - I don't work the bees until I have time to work the bees. The bees know if you are interacting or hacking and they react VERY differently to both approaches to these methods.
Some hives are EXTREMELY GENTLE by breeding and can be approached without smoking and still you can practically do anything to them - but to have several hives in the beeyard ALL with this mellow attitude is rare, so smoking them all is a simple way to make sure they are ready for you, when you are ready for them.