Web design tools can be rather expensive these days. Photoshop alone is likely to set you back a few hundred dollars unless you manage to find some very amazing deal, Techwitty not to mention how a few brushes and patterns can set you back nearly a hundred dollars. Fortunately, there are multiple free web design tools that though not perfect will be more than enough for a web designer on a budget, if only until he can use it to buy better tools.
Gimp is easily the most famous free web design tool, and for a good reason. The open-sourced editor is Photoshops only rival, even though it doesnt quite beat it. Gimp comes with a very robust set of options that allows for very dynamic photo manipulation. Though it doesnt have many of Photoshops features, the fact that it is an open sourced program has allowed many of its users to create customizable plugins that mimic nearly everything Photoshop does, provided you are willing to spend some time hunting down the right plugins.
You can even use Gimp to(with the help of a few plugins) achieve effects like Dodge and Burn that Photoshop users use so much. The main issue with Gimp is that it has a slightly confusing interface and that may take some time getting used to, but its generally a very nice alternative to Photoshop. There are even a few converters around the internet that allow you to use Photoshop brushes with Gimp, provided you dont mind spending a few minutes doing the conversion.
Brushes can be quite expensive, but it is very easy to find free (and good) brushes at deviantart.com. If you are a web designer unsure how to get new brushes for your image editor of choice, spending some time browsing deviantart can lead you to some surprisingly useful brushes. In fact, deviantart is also useful for finding free design tools in general, from patterns to textures. If you feel your photograph needs a few extra effects, its also worth taking a look at some free tutorials available there in order to achieve the effect you want.
Another good resource for photography is freedigitalphotos.net and similar websites that offer free photographs. Those photographs are of usually extremely high quality, and it does not hurt to download a few so you can attempt to reproduce them or simply use as reference. Do not copy them and claim it as your own, but trying to improve your technique at no cost is always useful. You need to keep in mind however, that your skins will only be useful if you manage to find a way to communicate them to your clients. This is why Dribbble is so important.
Dribble is a free social networking website for freelance web designers where they can post their work and share it with other web designers, or maybe even clients. All kinds of designs are accepted there, from user interface design to photography. It is a completely free service, and may help you significantly expand your online presence.